Public Health England (PHE) has released a new Eatwell Guide to help members of the public make healthier decisions around food.
The official Government guide has been refreshed to reflect updated dietary recommendations.
It includes more fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates and has fewer sugary foods and drinks than the previous guidelines.
The guide has been released just one day after George Osborne announced soft drinks manufacturers will be required to pay a sugar tax by 2018.
The new Eatwell Guide is largely based on recommendations from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s 2015 report on Carbohydrates and Health.
According to the guide, a healthy, balanced diet includes:
Eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
Basing meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, that are ideally wholegrain.
Having some dairy, or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) – choosing lower fat and lower sugar options.
Eating some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily).
Choosing unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts.
Drinking six-eight cups or glasses of fluid per day.
There is a greater focus on fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates, preferably wholegrain, in the new guide, compared to the old Eatwell Plate.
PHE recommends consuming 30 grams of fibre per day, the same as eating five portions of fruit and vegetables, two whole-wheat cereal biscuits, two thick slices of wholemeal bread or one large baked potato with the skin on.
Current figures suggest people only consume around 19 grams of fibre per day, less than two thirds of the new recommendation.
Sugary soft drinks have been removed from the image and foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar have also been moved to the outskirts of the guide, reflecting advice that they are not an essential part of a healthy and balanced diet.
The new guidelines say adults should consume less than six grams of salt and 20 grams of saturated fat for women or 30 grams for men per day.
PHE also advises limiting the consumption of sugar, for example from sugary drinks and confectionery.
The latest figures suggest adults have twice as much sugar as is recommended and children have over three times. PHE advises everyone over the age of 11 to consume less than 30 grams or seven cubes of sugar per day.
The advice that only a 150ml serving of fruit juice counts as one of the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is now extended to include smoothies.
This is in acknowledgement “of the high sugar content of smoothies”.
The Eatwell Guide now also displays drinks recommendations which clearly state that adults should be aiming to have six to eight glasses of fluids per day ideally from water, lower fat milks, and unsweetened tea or coffee.
Dr Lisa Jackson, representing the Association for Nutrition and chair of the external reference groups supporting PHE in this work, said: “As a GP, it is important that I have engaging and meaningful resources like the Eatwell Guide to support my patients to eat more healthily.
“I encourage professionals helping people to follow a healthy, balanced diet to use the new Eatwell Guide which will help reduce their risk of developing long term illnesses such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.”
But not everyone approves of the new guide, which includes the advice: “Eat less red meat and processed meat”.
The advice comes after the World Health Organisation(WHO) warned processed meats such as bacon and sausages are as big a cancer threat as cigarettes and red meat is also “probably” carcinogenic.
Commenting on the Eatwell guidelines surrounding meat, nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire, a member of the Meat Advisory Panel, said: “Blanket messages to reduce red meat consumption could be very detrimental to the diets of consumers who already eat low to moderate amounts of red meat, for example women and young people.
“Lean red meat is rich in protein, iron, zinc, B vitamins and selenium and makes an important contribution to daily vitamin and mineral intakes.
“Up to four in 10 women and young girls lack sufficient iron in the diet while one in 10 are iron deficient.”
She added: “My worry is that female consumers will reduce their intakes of red meat even further, risking low iron levels.
“Another point is that meat and meat products provide 25-35% of vitamin D intakes – a nutrient of concern in the UK due to low blood levels.
“In conclusion, it’s great that the new Eatwell Guide has reaffirmed the role of lean red meat in a healthy balanced diet but Government figures clearly show that the ‘eat less’ message is not applicable to most red meat consumers.”