Food-based dietary guidelines

Food-based dietary guidelines - United Kingdom

Official name

Eatwell Guide 

Publication year

The United Kingdom published its first national food model in 1994, and it has been updated since then. The national food model, then known as ‘The Balance of Good Health’, was launched in 1994. It was revised and named ‘The eatwell plate’ in 2007. The most recent model, the Eatwell Guide, was published in March 2016.

Since its publication in 2016 there have been no updates to the guide. This is because the evidence base that underpins the Eatwell Guide has not changed.

Stakeholder involvement

The revision of the eatwell plate to the Eatwell Guide in 2016 was led by Public Health England in association with Food Standards Scotland, the Welsh Government and by the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland. The Eatwell Guide has been accepted across UK government departments.

Products, resources and target audiences


Target audience

Eatwell Guide: colour PDF

General population

The Eatwell Guide booklet

General population

A quick guide to the government’s healthy eating recommendations

General population

Government dietary recommendations

Health care professionals

The Eatwell Guide: how does it differ to the eatwell plate and why?

General population

From Plate to Guide: What, why and how for the eatwell model


The Eatwell Guide: how to use in promotional material

Health care professionals, NGOs, industry, educational establishments

The eatwell guide: a more sustainable diet

General population

Development process

Dietary recommendations for the UK population include Dietary reference values (DRVs) and food-based guidelines. The complexities of DRVs and food-based recommendations are translated into the easily understandable visual model the Eatwell Guide.

In the UK, government dietary recommendations reflect evidence-based advice from independent expert committees, namely the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) and its successor since 2000, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). More information about SACN can be found here.

The revision of the eatwell plate to the Eatwell Guide was led by Public Health England (PHE) in association with the Welsh Government, Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland. In July 2014, PHE established an external reference group (ERG) with an independent chair to provide advice on methodologies for refreshing the eatwell plate. The ERG agreed and recommended that a linear programming approach would be the most robust and objective method for generating food group segment sizes. In order to ensure approaches remained meaningful to the public, consumer research was also conducted. More detailed information can be found here.


The Eatwell Guide represents UK government advice on a healthy, balanced diet. It was developed with, and is used by, the UK Devolved Administrations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). The Eatwell Guide is the key nutrition policy tool for health professionals and others working to improve dietary health.

The government encourages organizations and individuals to use the national food model to ensure provision of a consistent message. As well as being used by the National Health Service and health care professionals, it is used by a range of other organizations including (but not limited to) industry, charities and educational settings.


At the moment, there is no official monitoring and evaluation plan.


PHE worked with the Carbon Trust to conduct a sustainability assessment of the Eatwell Guide. According to the Carbon Trust analysis, the Eatwell Guide shows an appreciably lower environmental impact than the current UK diet. The report can be found here

Emphasis is placed on plant-based foods in the Eatwell Guide by listing these first in the protein segment title e.g. ‘beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins’, and including meat and dairy alternatives on the main Eatwell Guide image (e.g. soya drink). This was done to highlight certain food products within the food group that can be considered more environmentally sustainable as well as to promote a diet that is lower in saturated fat and higher in fibre.

Food guide

The UK’s national food guide, the Eatwell Guide, is a visual representation of the types and proportions of foods needed for a healthy balanced diet. It shows that people should try to eat: plenty of potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other higher fibre starchy carbohydrates; at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables; some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins; some dairy or alternatives and only small amounts of food and drinks that are high in fat and/or sugar. It is based on 5 food groups and shows the proportion that each food group should contribute to a healthy balanced diet. The proportions shown are representative of food consumption over the period of a day or even a week, not necessarily each meal time.


The guidelines are directed at the general population from the age of 2 years. Between the ages of 2 and 5 years, children should start moving towards the diet depicted in the Eatwell Guide.

  1. Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day.
  2. Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates; choosing wholegrain versions where possible.
  3. Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks); choosing lower fat and lower sugar options.
  4. Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily).
  5. Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts
  6. Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of fluid a day.

If consuming foods and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.