The Eatwell plate is the UK government’s official food guide about which foods we should eat to achieve a healthy diet. It is essentially a pie-chart depicting the recommended intakes of five specified food groups: fruit and vegetables, dairy products, cereals, meat and processed foods. It was first published 20 years ago – and despite some two decades of nutritional research has not been changed since.
In some countries – notably Australia, the US and Brazil – the official food guide is revised on a regular basis. Some two decades since it was first published, 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.
Then and now
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Many people have rightly argued that the Eatwell plate is now out of date and some recent government publications, such as the new standards for school food published earlier this year, have not referred to it at all.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.