Nutrition Guidelines in the UK

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important for maintaining good health and reducing the risk of diseases like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. The UK government provides national dietary guidelines to advise the public on the types and amounts of foods that make up a healthy diet. Nutrition Guidelines in the UK are based on scientific evidence and developed by independent experts.

Official Guidelines

The main set of government dietary guidelines in the UK is called the Eatwell Guide. Published by Public Health England, it uses a visual plate format to show the proportions of different food groups that should make up a balanced meal or daily diet:

  • Fruit and Vegetables – At least 5 portions per day, making up over a third of the plate. A wide variety should be eaten for maximum nutritional benefit.
  • Carbohydrates – About a third of the plate should be starch-based foods like potatoes, bread, rice and pasta. Wholegrain varieties are healthier choices.
  • Protein – Around 12% of the plate should contain proteins like beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and poultry. At least 2 portions of fish per week, including 1 of oily fish.
  • Dairy and Alternatives – Around 15% of the plate should contain milk, cheese and yogurt or non-dairy substitutes like soya drinks with added calcium. Go for lower fat and lower sugar options.
  • Oils and Spreads – A small amount of unsaturated oils like vegetable oil or olive oil should be used in cooking, spreads and dressings.

The Eatwell Guide shows the types of foods needed for a well-balanced diet, but doesn’t specify amounts. The NHS recommends these daily guidelines for the main food groups:

  • Fruit and Vegetables: At least 5 portions, 80g each
  • Carbohydrates: About a third of diet
  • Protein: 50-70g
  • Dairy: 300ml milk or calcium alternatives
  • Oils & spreads: Small amounts

Some key things to limit are also included in the guidelines:

  • Salt – 6g a day maximum
  • Saturated fat – no more than 30g a day
  • Sugar – no more than 30g of free sugars a day
  • Red and processed meat – limit to 70g a day

The guidelines advise choosing healthier unsaturated oils over saturated fats like butter or coconut oil. Omega-3 fats from oily fish are especially beneficial.

Advice for Different Groups

More specific nutrition advice is provided for certain groups with greater needs or risk factors. These include:

  • Infants and Children – Healthy eating guidance for pre-schoolers, school-age children and teens/young adults. More calcium, iron and vitamins needed at different stages of growth and development.
  • Pregnant Women – Increased intake of key nutrients required, like folate and iron. Avoidance of certain foods also advised for safety.
  • Older Adults – Recommendations to get adequate protein, calcium, vitamin D and fluids. Risk of malnutrition increases with age.
  • Vegetarians and Vegans – Advice on getting sufficient protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12 from plant-based diets. Supplements may be needed in some cases.
  • Patients with Diseases – Tailored diet tips for managing conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and food allergies/intolerances. Focuses on nutrition needs and reducing risk factors.

The government resources provide general guidance but those with specific dietary needs or medical conditions should consult a doctor or registered dietitian for individualized recommendations. Proper nutrition is important throughout all life stages from infancy to old age. Following national dietary guidelines makes it simpler to plan healthy balanced meals and improve long-term health.

Government Initiatives

The UK government runs public health campaigns and initiatives to promote healthier eating among the population. These include:

  • The Eatwell Guide – Discussed above, a visual tool used in health promotion materials and education. Printed copies available and an interactive version online.
  • Change4Life – Social marketing campaign with advice and tools for families to eat well, move more and live longer. Features TV ads, online games and apps.
  • 5 A Day – Encourages eating 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day. Advice and recipes available online to make this achievable.
  • School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme – Provides a free piece of fruit or vegetable every school day to children aged 4-6 across the UK. Aims to increase intake and form good habits.
  • Sugar Smart – Resources to help reduce over-consumption of sugary foods and drinks, including apps to check how much total sugar is in products.
  • Calories on Menus – Law requiring large restaurants, cafes and takeaways to display calorie information on menus to help diners make informed choices.
  • Salt Targets – Voluntary targets set for food industry to gradually reduce salt content of processed foods, cereals, bread and meat products.
  • Healthy Start Vouchers – Low-income pregnant women and families can get vouchers for basic foods like milk, fruit and vitamins. Aims to improve nutrition for mothers and children under 4.

By raising awareness through marketing and making small improvements to the food environment, these initiatives try to nudge the population towards healthier dietary intakes. While individual responsibility is still important, the government recognizes nutrition guidelines are more achievable when supported at a policy and systems level.


Good nutrition based on the UK’s dietary recommendations lays the foundation for health and wellbeing. Government campaigns and nutrition labels aim to make following the guidelines easier, but personal responsibility is still key. Small consistent changes towards a balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins and fats can help everyone achieve the benefits of optimal nutrition.

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