The Eatwell Guide – by Claire Alp, Public Health Specialist (London Borough of Havering)
Just before the Easter break, the new Eatwell Guide was published. The aim of this is to guide us on the different types of food we should eat – and in what proportions – to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.
The Eatwell Guide has replaced the Eatwell Plate and several changes have been introduced as a result of new and increased evidence that helps us to understand what a healthy, balanced diet should look like.
The change of name away from “plate” helps us to remember that we don’t need to have these exact proportions on every plate or with every meal but should aim to get the balance right over a day or a week.
The recommendations are to:
* Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Remember that juicing or blending fruit releases the sugar so it becomes ‘free sugar‘ – so it’s better to get your 5-a-day by eating whole fruits and vegetables.
* Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, choosing wholegrain versions where possible.
* Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks); choosing lower fat and lower sugar options.
* Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, 1 of which should be oily).
* Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts
* Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of fluid a day choosing water, lower fat milk and lower sugar or sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee.
Foods high in fat, salt and sugar sit outside the segments because they are not needed in the diet. While we might eat chocolate, crisps, cakes, biscuits and sugary drinks because we enjoy them, we should only do so infrequently and in small amounts.
So what can we do to support children to enjoy a healthy, balanced diet?
To encourage children to eat healthily we need consistent approaches and messages throughout home, school and play settings.
Havering’s Health and Wellbeing in Schools Service works with schools to promote a whole school approach to healthy eating. Schools can work towards Healthy Schools London awards which help to ensure consistent healthy eating messages are in place across curricular and extra-curricular activities; nutritious food is provided at lunchtime, in tuckshops and breakfast clubs; staff act as positive role models; children are involved in shaping the food offer in their school perhaps through their school council; and parents engage with the school food agenda through tasting sessions at parents evenings, provision of healthy packed lunches, and supporting after-school cooking and gardening clubs.
We’ve seen some brilliant Healthy Schools projects taking place this school year that have included increasing uptake of vegetables at lunchtime, children exploring the food environment around their school and comparing the food on offer with a healthy school meal, and lots of work focused on sugary drinks.
When school cooking lessons follow National Curriculum guidance focusing on healthy savoury recipes, children develop valuable life skills that enable them to prepare and cook healthy meals from scratch. Lots of schools also run after-school cooking and gardening clubs.
The menus provided by Havering Catering Services (HCS) meet the Government’s school food standards and with a Silver Food For Life Catering Mark you can also trust that ingredients are responsibly sourced.
Finally, as parents, you can make a huge contribution by eating healthily at home and involving children in preparing and cooking meals; encouraging your children to eat their 5-a-day; keeping high fat, high sugar and high salt foods as a treat; and choosing healthier everyday snacks. For more ideas, there’s lots of information on the Eat Well section of the Change4Life website!