Use the Eatwell Guide to help you get a balance of healthier food for you and the child/young person you care for. The guide shows how much of what you and your family eat overall should come from each food group.

The Eatwell Guide applies to most people, regardless of weight, dietary restrictions/preferences or ethnic origin. However, it doesn’t apply to children under 2 because they have different nutritional needs. Between the ages of 2 and 5, children should gradually move to eating the same foods as the rest of the family, in the proportions shown in the Eatwell Guide. Anyone with special dietary requirements or medical needs might want to check with a registered dietitian on how to adapt the Eatwell Guide to meet their individual needs.

Eatwell Guide:

Source: Public Health England in association with the Welsh Government, Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland

Click to download the Eatwell Plate image in JPG format

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Fruit and vegetables

Just over a third of the food we eat should be made up of fruit and vegetables – and you should try to eat at least five portions every day. It is important to eat fruit and vegetables because there is evidence to show that people who eat more than five portions a day have a lower risk of developing heart disease. Fruit and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins and minerals which your body needs to keep healthy. They are great sources of essential nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, iron and zinc, which are essential for children and young people for their rapid growth and development. They are also a good source of fibre, which makes them filling to eat, and keeps the digestive system healthy. Try to choose a variety of fruit and vegetables over the day so that you and the young people in your care can benefit from all the different nutrients they provide.

A general guide is that one portion of fruit or vegetable is the same as the amount that you or the child /young person in your care can fit in the palm of your/their hand. For adults this would be approximately 80g of fruits/vegetables.

What counts as one portion?

A portion is 80g or the equivalent of:

  • 1 tomato, carrot, apple, banana, orange or other similar-sized vegetable/fruit (1)

  • 1 dessert bowl of salad (2)

  • 30g of dried fruit (counts as a maximum of one portion a day) or (3)

  • 150ml glass of fruit juice or smoothie (counts as a maximum of one portion a day). Only natural unsweetened 100% fruit juice counts, with no added sugar! (4)

  • 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetable/fruit (e.g. peas or blueberries) (5)

1 tom bowl salad dried
1. 2. 3.
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For useful tips on how to swap unhealthy snacks or adjust your meals, with delicious new ideas that will help you towards your 5-a-day, go to the British Heart Foundation website.


Remember that there are five ways to get your five a day – vegetables or fruits can be fresh, frozen, dried, juiced or tinned (in juice or water with no added salt or sugar).

Remember that one small glass (150ml) of unsweetened 100% fruit juice or smoothie and one portion of dried fruit (around 30g) can count towards one of your five a day, bot only once a day however much you drink. Both should be consumed at mealtimes to reduce the risk of dental caries.

Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates

Just over a third of your plate should be starchy foods – this food group is your body’s main source of energy and should be part of all meals. Choose a variety of different foods from this group, rather than eating the same ones all the time. As well as bread, rice, potatoes and pasta, this food group includes whole oats, chapattis, naan, yam, plantain and couscous, among others. Choose wholegrain versions of these starchy foods whenever you can as they will contain more fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) recommends an increase in the population’s fibre intake to an average of 30g per day for adults. For children, the recommended intakes are: 15g/day (age 2-5); 20g/day (age 5-11); 25g/day (age 11-16); 30g/day (age 16-18).

Children under five need a lower-fibre, higher fat diet and gradually increased portion sizes. To help you make sure you’re serving up the right food at the right time, there’s lots of information to help out there. Look at the guidance provided by the Caroline Walker Trust .


Unlike carbohydrates, fibre doesn’t contribute to your daily calorie intake and has a number of benefits including keeping the digestive system healthy. Wholegrain foods are digested more slowly, providing energy that is released gradually, making you feel fuller for longer and therefore less likely to snack in between meals.

Dairy and alternatives

Try to have some milk and dairy food (or dairy alternatives) – such as cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais. These are good sources of protein and vitamins (like vitamins A and B12), and they’re also an important source of calcium, which helps to keep our bones strong.

The portion of the Eatwell Guide representing dairy is small, and therefore these foods should be eaten in moderation. Some dairy food can be high in fat and saturated fat, but there are plenty of lower-fat options to choose from. Go for lower fat and lower sugar products where possible. For example, why not try 1% fat milk which contains about half the fat of semi-skimmed milk. Try reduced fat cheese which is now widely available. You could have just a smaller amount of the full-fat varieties less often. When buying dairy alternatives (e.g. almond/soya milk/yoghurt etc.), go for unsweetened, calcium-fortified versions.

Please note that children under five years are growing and developing at a rapid rate and therefore have higher energy needs for their size. For this reason, children under two years should have full fat milk and dairy foods. Semi-skimmed milk can be introduced from two years if they are growing well and having a varied and balanced diet. Children over the age of five should follow healthy eating advice suitable for all the family.


If the children are over five years old and eating well then encourage them to eat low-fat dairy products as they contain less saturated fat and can provide the same amount (if not more) calcium. However they can be very high in sugar, so always check the food label.

Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins

These foods are sources of protein, vitamins and minerals, so it is important to eat foods from this group. Pulses (also called legumes) are edible seeds that grow in pods and include foods like beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas. Other vegetable-based sources of protein include tofu, bean curd and Quorn, all of which are widely available in most retailers. All types of pulses are good alternatives to meat because they’re naturally very low in fat, and high in fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Aim for at least two portions (2 x 140g) of fish a week, including a portion of oily fish. Most people should be eating more fish, but there are recommended limits for oily fish, crab and some types of white fish.


For more information on fish please visit the NHS Livewell site . Also for more guidance on sustainably sourced fish.

What counts as one portion?

A serving of fish or meat (140g) should be about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand.

palm of hand showing portion of fish and portion of meat
A serving of fish and meat (140g)

Some types of meat are high in fat, particularly saturated fat, which can increase your blood cholesterol level. So when you’re buying meat, remember that the type of cut or meat product you choose, and how you cook it, can make a big difference. To cut down on fat, choose lean cuts of meat and go for leaner mince, cut the fat off meat and the skin off chicken, try to grill meat and fish instead of frying, and have a boiled or poached egg instead of fried.

If you eat more than 90g of red or processed meat per day, try to cut down to no more than 70g per day (this equals half of the portion presented in the picture above). The term ‘processed’ meat includes sausages, bacon, cured meats and reformed meat products.


Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for human health and are essential for normal brain development. Our bodies cannot make this type of fat so it is important we get it from our food.

To ensure you get enough omega-3, eat oily fish twice per week (e.g. mackerel, salmon, fresh tuna, trout) to provide your body with these essential fatty acids. Vegetarian sources include linseed and walnuts.

Oils and spreads

Although some fat in the diet is essential, generally we are eating too much saturated fat and need to reduce our consumption. Unsaturated fats are healthier fats that are usually from plant sources and in liquid form as oil. For example, vegetable oil, rapeseed oil and olive oil. Swapping to unsaturated fats will help to reduce cholesterol in the blood, therefore it is important to get most of our fat from unsaturated oils.

Choosing olive oils, avocado or lower fat spreads, as opposed to butter or lard, is a good way to reduce your saturated fat intake. Processed foods, including some of the fat spreads, contain trans fats (hydrogenated vegetable oils - oils which have been processed to make them hard - which are as bad for your body as saturated fats. They may appear on the list of ingredients as ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable fats/oil’. Look out for this on food labels and choose carefully.

Remember that all types of fat are high in energy and should be limited in the diet.


To learn more about different types of fats and their sources look at the British Dietetic Association (BDA) food fact sheet on fat

Foods high in fat, salt and sugars

This includes products such as chocolate, cakes, biscuits, full-sugar soft drinks, butter, ice-cream and ready meals (processed foods are generally higher in fat, salt and sugars as these ingredients extend their shelf life and can improve the taste of the food). These foods can provide unnecessary additional calories and are not needed for good health and so, if included, should only be eaten occasionally and in small amounts. If you consume these foods and drinks often, try to limit their consumption and portion size. You can use food labels to help you to choose healthier versions of these foods or healthier alternatives.

Food and drinks high in fat and sugar contain lots of calories (energy), particularly when you have large servings and many have limited or no nutritional value.


Portion Control

  • the proportions shown on the Eatwell Guide are representative of food consumption over the period of a day or even a week, not necessarily each meal time
  • make sure children and young people eat the right amount of food for their size and age. The quantities of required nutrients change as we pass from one life-stage to the next
  • if children and young people consume more energy (calories) than their bodies need, this will be stored in their body as fat. Over time this can lead to overweight and obesity, which, in later life, can lead to diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes

For more information on portion sizes required to meet the nutritional needs of children and young people at different ages go to the next section.

Look also at the guidance provided by the Caroline Walker Trust