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The main food groups

The NHS Eatwell Guide divides the food we eat into 5 main food groups:

  • fruit and vegetables
  • potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starch carbohydrates
  • beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins
  • dairy and alternatives
  • oils and spreads

It shows you how much and what to eat from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet.

You do not have to achieve this with every meal but you should try to get the balance right over a day or week.

Food portion size

The portion size or how much you eat of each food group is important to maintain a healthy weight.

You can find an interactive portion size guide, which includes photographs to show you the recommended portion sizes for different types of food, on the British Heart Foundation website.

Try to avoid feeding your child oversized portions. Start meals with small servings and then if your child is still hungry they will ask for more. If your child is full do not try to make them eat everything on their plate. You could also use smaller plates for younger children.

Make healthier choices

The Eatwell Guide can help you to make healthier choices. Aim to:

  • eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day
  • base your meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, choosing wholegrain where possible
  • have some dairy or dairy alternatives. For example; soya drinks and yoghurts
  • choose low fat and low sugar options where possible
  • eat some fish, eggs, beans, pulses, meat and other proteins. Try to aim for at least 2 portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. For example; salmon or mackerel
  • choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat sparingly in small amounts
  • drink 6 to 8 cups or glasses of fluid a day
  • cut down on foods high in fat, salt and sugar
  • eat less salt. Adults should not have more than 6 grams a day

To find more information about the different food groups visit the British Nutrition Foundation website. You'll find posters that you can view and download.

If you have special dietary requirements or medical needs, check with a registered dietician on how to adapt the Eatwell Guide to meet your needs.