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How to eat a balanced diet

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Sometimes, working out what we are supposed to eat (and avoid) to keep healthy can seem an impossible task. In the world of nutrition, advice is being updated, challenged and revised all the time. Where do we go for sensible advice? To make our dietary choices easier, the Food Standards Agency (FSA), a UK government department, have devised the 'eatwell plate'. This guide shows you how to plan your family's meals in accordance with the FSA's 'eatwell plate'.
What you'll need: 
A copy of the 'eatwell plate' (recommended - see link)
When planning your family's meals, one third of your plate should comprise of fruit and vegetables. This is where the 'five portions a day' advice comes from. A portion is about 80g in weight. 150 ml of fruit juice counts as a maximum of one portion.
Another third of your plate should comprise of starchy foods. These include bread, rice, potatoes and pasta. Wholegrain varieties are recommended as they are high in fibre and make us feel fuller for longer.
Divide the final third of your plate between dairy products, non-dairy sources of protein and a very small amount of high-fat and/or high-sugar foods.
Dairy foods include milk, cheese, yoghurt and fromage frais. They supply protein, vitamins and bone-forming calcium.
Other sources of protein include meat, fish, eggs and pulses (beans, peas, lentils, etc.). It is recommended that we eat two portions of oily fish a week but certain fish (e.g. shark, marlin and tuna) may contain heavy metals and should be eaten less frequently.
Foods with a high fat and/or sugar content (including cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sweets, crisps, cream, oil and butter) should form only a very small part of a healthy diet. In particular, try and minimise the amount of saturated fats you eat.
Although not specified on the eatwell plate, the FSA advise that we should be careful about adding salt to our meals. Many bought foods already contain surprisingly high amounts of salt and exceeding the recommended daily amount (a teaspoonful [6g] for adults) is linked to heart disease and stroke.
This is a brief summary of the FSA dietary advice. For further information you can visit the FSA website.
The 'eatwell plate' does not have to be followed slavishly at every meal. You can compensate for any imbalance over the day
If you are a vegetarian or vegan you can still follow the eatwell plate by substituting within food groups.
For advice on specific dietary requirements, see your GP or health visitor.
Children (especially under 5's) have special requirements. Speak to your health visitor for guidance.


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