Nutritionists defend government advice on food

By Laurence Gibbons contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nutritionists have defended the government's 'Eatwell Plate'
Nutritionists have defended the government's 'Eatwell Plate'

Related tags: Nutrition

Claims that the government’s ‘Eatwell Plate’ promotes excessive sugar intake and contributes to growing health problems in the UK have been rubbished by leading nutritionists.

The British Nutrition Foundation’s senior nutrition scientist Bridget Benelam said any link between following the ‘Eatwell Plate’ and health issues was unlikely.

“Evidence suggests that people in the UK do not generally consume a diet that is in line with the ‘Eatwell Plate’ and so it’s very unlikely that there is any link between the ‘Eatwell Plate’ advice and current health issues,”​ she told

Poor government advice

She was responding to claims by Paleo Britain that poor government advice on diet was adding to health issues such as obesity and type-2 diabetes.

Paleo Britain’s co-founder, Chloe Archard, criticised the ‘Eatwell Plate’ for containing more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance of sugar in just one meal and encouraged people to adopt a Paleo diet instead.

A Paleo diet, also known as a Caveman Diet, recommends foods similar to the ones our Palaeolithic ancestors ate. Its recommendations include replacing carbohydrate calories with fats and avoiding processed foods.

But Benelam said changing the balance of diets to be more consistent with the ‘Eatwell Plate’ was likely to be beneficial for public health.

“The aim of the plate is to balance the diet over the course of the day or a number of days and so taking examples of single meals to represent the guidance is not consistent with how the plate should be applied,”​ she added.

The ‘Eatwell Plate’ is accompanied with a number of messages. These included exhortations to choose wholegrains or potatoes in skins where possible, to avoid high consumption of processed meat and to choose tinned fruit and vegetables without added sugars or salt, Benelam said.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said there were many ways to meet the recommendations in the ‘Eatwell Plate’ and follow the Paleo diet.

“The ‘Eatwell Plate’ gives a visual representation of the types and proportions of foods needed for a healthy, balanced diet,”​ she told this site.

‘Key messages’

“The key messages encourage choosing a variety of foods to get the range of nutrients we need for a healthy lifestyle and eating the right amount of food for our weight.”

Diets high in saturated fat and salt are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, Tedstone said.

“Foods high in fat and or sugar can also contribute to excess energy​ [calorie] intakes which in turn can lead to weight gain if they are eaten too often or in large amounts,”​ she added.

“When choosing processed foods government advice is to look at the label and choose those that are lower in energy​ [calories] sugar, fat and salt.”

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