Healthy Eating for the Whole Family

Eatwell Plate

Sorry its been ages since I have written anything but have been swamped with work.

Oscar is now 1 year old, onto family foods and feeding himself with a lot of mess! A friend asked me recently what she should be aiming for when it came to family foods and thought it was time I shared some tips on this.

Its all about balance…

There is no such thing as a perfect diet but really we should be aiming for a balanced one…a range of foods that provide different nutrients to ensure our little ones grow up happy and healthy. Our diet falls into 5 food groups (more info on each of these below) as shown by the picture. And how much we have from each food group is nicely shown by the slice of the pie!

Imagine you could put all the family meals you have in one week onto one large plate, would it look like this image? Maybe you are eating more meat? Less fruit and veg? Too much dairy?

This picture captures how our diet should look from 2 years onwards so applies to your diet too Mum! Children under 2 will have a larger proportion of dairy in their diets.

Group 1 – Starchy Carbohydrates

  • E.g. cereal foods, pasta, bread, rice, potatoes
  • Give us lots of energy and fibre
  • Try to choose less refined alternatives for slower release energy and more fibre (e.g. brown rice, whole grain pasta)
  • Should account for 1/3 of your diet

Group 2 – Fruit and Vegetables

  • E.g. Carrots, tomatoes, oranges, bananas, broccoli
  • Potatoes are not in this group (they are in Group 1)
  • Give us vitamins, minerals, fibre
  • Try to eat a rainbow. The more colourful, the more antioxidants they contain.
  • Try to eat 5 a day.
  • A portion is a ‘handful’
  • One glass of fruit juice (150ml) can only count as 1 of your 5 a day
  • Should account for 1/3 of your diet

Group 3 – Meat, Fish, Eggs, Beans, Pulses

  • E.g. chicken, cod, lentils, chickpeas, tofu
  • Full of iron and protein
  • Try to eat two portions a day (a portion equates to the size of the palm of your hand) or three a day if you are a vegetarian
  • Choose lean alternatives (trim visible fat off meat and try grilling or roasting instead of frying)
  • Drink a glass of orange juice with your vegetarian protein (e.g. beans & pulses) to help iron absorption

Group 4 – Dairy

  • E.g milk, yoghurt, cheese
  • Great for calcium and good bone health
  • All children should be on full fat milk until 2 years of age. At 5 years of age you can introduce skimmed milk.
  • Adults should choose low fat alternatives where possible
  • Try to have 2-3 portions a day
  • A portion equates to a match box piece of cheese, 1 yoghurt, average glass of milk

Group 5 – Foods high in fat, sugar and salt

  • E.g. biscuits, chocolate, sweets, fried food
  • Try to eat only as treats (on top of and not instead of any of the other groups
  • For better heart health try to choose vegetable fats such as olive oil or rapeseed (or spreads made from them) over animal fats like butter and lard.
  • Don’t worry about fat intake for little ones as they need the calories

TOP TIP: Eating well is all about balance. Have a think of one change you could make to your/your family’s diet after reading this…one more fruit a day, try to eat whole grains etc


NHS Choices Website – The Eatwell Plate (accessed April, 2012)

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