Quantcast
Connect with us

Official healthy food guide hasn’t changed in 20 years — but these five things need updating

Published

on

The Eatwell plate is the UK government’s official food guide about which foods we should eat to achieve a healthy diet. It is essentially a pie-chart depicting the recommended intakes of five specified food groups: fruit and vegetables, dairy products, cereals, meat and processed foods. It was first published 20 years ago – and despite some two decades of nutritional research has not been changed since.

In some countries – notably Australia, the US and Brazil – the official food guide is revised on a regular basis. Some two decades since it was first published, Public Health England has announced that it will revise the Eatwell plate in the light of proposed new recommendations on sugar from the government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

ADVERTISEMENT

Then and now

The types of food we eat and the challenges for a healthy diet have changed significantly over the past 20 years. In particular we now know that added sugar is much more harmful to our health than we thought back then. We are now much less convinced that fruit juice – consumption of which is 15 times that in the 1970s – is much healthier than sugary soft drinks. And the need to cut down on red meat in our diets has become clearer, as has our need to reduce saturated fat intake rather than total fat intake.

Less enjoyable than it used to be.
Horrigans, CC BY-NC

Many people have rightly argued that the Eatwell plate is now out of date and some recent government publications, such as the new standards for school food published earlier this year, have not referred to it at all. Now is the opportunity to undertake a fully comprehensive review and here are some issues for Public Health England to consider.

What to take account of

  1. We need to redefine the food groups on the Eatwell plate. As Susan Jebb, the government’s adviser on obesity, also agrees: fruit juice should not be included in the fruit and vegetable group (and potatoes should be).

  2. Healthier and less healthy foods within food groups should be identified. At the moment the cereals group includes salty and sugary breakfast cereals. We think that the guide should make it clear that, while current levels of cereal intake should be maintained, there are some cereals that are healthier than others.

    ADVERTISEMENT

  3. The angles of the segments of the plate – showing how much of the five food groups we should eat – also needs to change. Over the last 20 years a reduction in red meat consumption has been recommended by most public health experts. But the guide doesn’t reflect this. The angle for the meat group needs to be made smaller.

  4. A perennial and growing criticism of the guide is that – unlike its US equivalent – it gives a place to unhealthy processed foods and even depicts a can of cola. Cola (or other sugary drinks) should be replaced with a glass of water.

  5. Some of the foods shown in the old guide have a greater impact on the environment than others. In particular, most of the foods in the meat group have higher associated greenhouse gas emissions than foods in other groups. Then there are less obvious issues such as air miles. Asparagus is shown in the guide but asparagus air freighted to the UK from South America, for example, will have a higher environmental impact than British carrots. One idea might be to design the plate in such a way that more sustainable food items can be found closer to the centre and unsustainable food items closer to the outer layer of the plate. So as you go from centre to outer circle within a group, the environmental burden of the food item increases.

    ADVERTISEMENT

How green is your asparagus?
Goosegrease, CC BY-SA

Today we are not just concerned about our diets for health reasons; there are various other considerations that shape our choices, such as environmental sustainability in food production, animal welfare and Fair Trade – and the Eatwell plate needs to take account of these wider concerns. The guide already takes account of practicalities, for example it sensibly only shows foods that are readily available. But we now know that the ways in which we consume our food not only affects our health but that of the planet and therefore the health of future generations. It is unforgivable to ignore this fact when providing dietary advice.

All of these things need to be taken into account when revising things such as the angles of the segments and how and where in the guide foods are depicted. The World Wildlife Fund has produced its own version of the Eatwell plate called the Livewell plate, which shows how this can be done.

Much has been discovered and published during the past 20 years which has changed our understanding of food. Revision of the Eatwell plate – merely to take account of one government report – seems illogical. This rare opportunity should be used to develop a systematic and transparent approach to reviewing current evidence and to undertake a comprehensive review of the Eatwell plate to reflect all of the dietary challenges we face today.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Conversation

Kremlin Wickramasinghe, Researcher in Public Health, University of Oxford and Mike Rayner, Professor of Population Health, University of Oxford

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

ADVERTISEMENT

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and legal efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. And unlike other news outlets, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from billionaires and corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click to donate by check.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



Report typos and corrections to: [email protected]. Send news tips to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Facebook

GOP lawmaker cut the mic on black woman’s facts — but let white men spew ‘lunacy and lies’: report

Published

on

The Republican chair of a Tennessee legislative committee is under fire for cutting off the microphone while a woman of color was speaking -- but allowing white men to spew "lunacy."

"It took all of five minutes for Sen. Mike Bell, chairman of the Tennessee General Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, to prove Cherisse Scott’s point. Scott is founder and CEO of Sister Reach, a Memphis organization that fights for reproductive freedom and health for rural women and girls of color struggling with poverty," Memphis Commercial Appeal columnist Tonyaa Weathersbee explained.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Here’s why Jeffrey Epstein surrounded himself with scientists

Published

on

The list of confidants and friends who were fêted by the late financier and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein included a number of prominent scientists. Among the eye-popping names that appeared on the list: the late cosmologist Stephen Hawking, Nobel-winning physicist Murray Gell-Mann, evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould, physicist Frank Wilczek, neurologist Oliver Sacks, and geneticist George M. Church.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump just humiliated his own son with an absurd tweet about Greenland

Published

on

President Donald Trump confirmed multiple reports this weekend when he said that he does, indeed, hope to buy Greenland and make it part of the United States.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has said that the country, which is part of the Kingdom of Denmark, is “not for sale”: “Greenland belongs to Greenland.” Which should be the end of the story. Unfortunately, it’s not.

On Monday, Trump sent the following tweet, apparently trying to quell suspicions that the president just regards Greenland as another place to expand his business empire:

Continue Reading
 
 

Thank you for whitelisting Raw Story!

As a special thank you, from now until August 31st, we're offering you a discounted rate of $5.99/month to subscribe and get ad-free access. We're honored to have you as a reader. Thank you. :) —Elias, Membership Coordinator
LEARN MORE
close-link
close-image