Nutrition and Diet

Food groups

There are five main food groups. For a balanced and healthy diet these food groups need to be eaten in the correct proportion. To view the 'eatwell plate' with details on the five food groups click here.

Fruit and vegetables

Fruit and vegetables provide valuable vitamins, minerals and fibre and are usually low in fat and calories too. They should make up about a third of what we eat.

It is recommended that adults eat at least five (80g) portions of different fruit and vegetables a day to help stay healthy. The size of a portion for children varies but is approximately the amount that fits into the palm of their hand.

Fruit and vegetables don’t have to be fresh to count as a portion; frozen, dried and tinned all count and even a glass of fruit juice can count as a portion. They don’t need to be eaten on their own; they still count if they're part of a meal or included in a dish, for example, onions or tomatoes.

What counts as an 80g portion?

Generally in the UK we’re not eating enough fruit and vegetables, so include plenty at your mealtimes and remember they are the perfect snack!

Bread, rice, potatoes, pasta and other starchy foods

Eat plenty from this food group as these starchy foods should make up about a third of all your food. Choose wholegrain varieties whenever you can.

Milk and dairy foods

Dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt are good sources of protein for growth and repair and calcium for strong bones and teeth. Lower fat dairy foods are the healthier options.

Meat, fish, eggs, beans or other non-dairy sources of protein

This food group provides good sources of protein for growth and repair and some vitamins and minerals too.

Choose lean and lower fat options whenever you can and trim off any visible fat on meat and remove skin from poultry.

The Government recommends that we should eat at least two portions of fish a week, including at least one portion of oily fish.

Foods and drinks high in fat and/or sugar

Many of us eat too much fat and/or sugar, so aim to have just a small amount of foods and drinks which are high in fat and/or sugar.

The ‘eat well plate’ will guide you on the right proportion of foods to eat but you still need to eat the right amount of food. You must therefore watch your portion sizes to ensure you balance the energy you consume with the energy you use to maintain a healthy weight otherwise you can still gain weight.

More advice on food groups for younger children is available from NHS Choices.