The Eatwell plate is the UK government’s official food guide about which foods we should eat to achieve a healthy diet. It was first published 20 years ago – and despite some two decades of nutritional research has not been changed since.
Wednesday 29 October 2014
Public Health England has announced that it will revise the Eatwell plate in the light of proposed new recommendations on sugar from the government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.
The types of food we eat and the challenges for a healthy diet have changed significantly over the past 20 years. In particular we now know that added sugar is much more harmful to our health than we thought back then. We are now much less convinced that fruit juice – consumption of which is 15 times that in the 1970s – is much healthier than sugary soft drinks. And the need to cut down on red meat in our diets has become clearer, as has our need to reduce saturated fat intake rather than total fat intake.
Many people have rightly argued that the Eatwell plate is now out of date and some recent government publications, such as the new standards for school food published earlier this year, have not referred to it at all. Now is the opportunity to undertake a fully comprehensive review and here are some issues for Public Health England to consider.
We need to redefine the food groups on the Eatwell plate. As Susan Jebb, the government’s adviser on obesity, also agrees: fruit juice should not be included in the fruit and vegetable group (and potatoes should be).
Healthier and less healthy foods within food groups should be identified.
The angles of the segments of the plate – showing how much of the five food groups we should eat – also needs to change. The angle for the meat group needs to be made smaller.
A perennial and growing criticism of the guide is that – unlike its US equivalent – it gives a place to unhealthy processed foods and even depicts a can of cola. Cola (or other sugary drinks) should be replaced with a glass of water.
Some of the foods shown in the old guide have a greater impact on the environment than others. One idea might be to design the plate in such a way that more sustainable food items can be found closer to the centre and unsustainable food items closer to the outer layer of the plate.