Here is a breakdown of these foods:
Try to include a portion of carbohydrates with each meal and aim for 6 to 7 portions each day. Choose wholemeal options whenever you can.
- A portion of bread is equivalent to one slice.
- A portion of rice or pasta is equivalent to a handful (can fit in the palm of the hand).
- A portion of cereal is equivalent to a handful (can fit in the palm of the hand).
- A portion of potatoes is equivalent to a handful (equal to the size of your hand).
So, if you are aiming for 6 portions of carbohydrates in a day then one way of doing so is to have a portion of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich at lunchtime and three handfuls of rice at dinner:
Cereal = 1 portion
Sandwich (2 slices of bread) = 2 portions
Rice (3 handfuls) = 3 portions
1 + 2 + 3 = 6 portions
Aim to eat 2 portions a day. Eat fish twice a week and make sure that one of these is oily fish. For example, sardines or mackerel.
Good choices are fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, pulses, nuts and seeds.
- A portion of lean, red meat is equivalent to a pack of cards.
- A portion of eggs is equivalent to a large egg.
- A portion of fish is equivalent to the size of your chequebook.
- A portion of nuts and seeds is equivalent to a handful (can fit in the palm of your hand).
Limit your consumption of red meat to no more than one portion in a day.
So, two portions a day could be a chicken sandwich for lunch and a piece of salmon for dinner.
Chicken = 1 portion
Fish = 1 portion
1 + 1 = 2 portions
Aim to eat 2 to 3 portions in a day. Go for the low fat versions such as skimmed milk or an olive oil based margarine.
This section includes milk, butter, cheese, margarine and yoghurt.
- A portion of milk is equivalent to a small cup.
- A portion of yoghurt is equivalent to a small pot (four pack of yoghurt).
- A portion of cheese is equivalent to the size of a small matchbox.
So, two to three portions could include a cup of milk on your breakfast cereal, a small pot of yoghurt at lunchtime and a piece of cheese with some crackers in the evening.
Milk = 1 portion
Yoghurt = 1 portion
Cheese = 1 portion
1 + 1 +1 = 3 portions
Fruit and Vegetables
Try to eat 5 or more of these in a day. These can be fresh, tinned or frozen. Beans also count as 1 of your 5 a day. Examples of beans include borlotti, kidney, cannellini and aduki.
- A medium sized apple, peach or banana.
- A handful of grapes (can fit in the palm of your hand).
- Six or seven strawberries of other types of berries.
- A small glass of fruit juice.
- Two tablespoons of vegetables.
- Three tablespoons of beans
Five a day might sound a lot but it is easy to incorporate this amount of fruit and vegetables into your diet.
For fruit try this:
Half a grapefruit as part of your breakfast; an apple as a
mid-morning snack and a banana at lunchtime. Have a handful of grapes in the afternoon and some slices of melon at dinner.
Grapefruit = 1 portion
Medium apple = 1 portion
Medium banana = 1 portion
Grapes = 1 portion
Melon slices = 1 portion
1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 5 portions
For vegetables try this:
A glass of vegetable juice in the morning and a handful of crudités (bite sized pieces of vegetables such as carrots or celery) as a
mid-morning snack. Have a large mixed salad for lunch and then two servings of vegetables at dinner.
Glass of vegetable juice = 1 portion
Crudites (handful) = 1 portion
Large mixed salad = 1 portion
Two vegetable servings (e.g. peas and beans) = 2 portions
1 + 1 + 1 + 2 = 5 portions
Fats and sugars
These should form the smallest part of your ‘eatwell’ plate. Reduce your consumption of fats and sugars and don’t forget your salt intake as well. Although, this isn’t always that easy as many foods have ‘hidden’ amounts of salt.
The Food Standards Agency advises us to have no more than 6g of salt a day but the reality is that many of us have much more than that.
Check the labels on the back of food products to see how much salt is contained within that product. Be careful when you do so as you will see the percentage of salt per 100 grams as well as for the whole product.
If you find the nutritional information on food packets confusing then our Food Labels section can help. This section contains advice on what a ‘nutritional analysis’ means and how this relates to your lifestyle.
As regards fats: we do need a small amount of fat in our diets as it is a good source of energy as well as providing essential fatty acids to our bodies.
However, too much fat is bad for us, especially saturated fat so choose unsaturated fats instead. Unsaturated fats, also known as polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats are found in the following sources:
- Olive, sunflower, rapeseed and vegetables oils. This also includes spreads.
- Nuts and seeds
- Oily fish such as sardines, salmon, mackerel or kippers. The other bonus of oily fish is that of omega 3 fatty acids which are good for heart health.
An olive oil spread, sardines on toast for lunch or a handful of nuts are all good examples of unsaturated fats.
Saturated fat is a type of fat which becomes solid at room temperature and is derived from animal sources. It is found in cakes, biscuits, pies and pastries and any food which contains lard, butter or margarine.
The problem with this type of fat is that too much of it can raise blood cholesterol levels which can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Much of our food contains saturated fat but unfortunately, these are the types of foods we enjoy the most. We know that they are not good for us but it can be very hard to resist. If you have a sweet tooth or find it difficult not to eat these foods then try to limit them to an occasional ‘treat’. Another approach is to opt for a low fat version instead.
If you are trying to eat a healthy diet but are not sure about the amounts of protein, fats and carbohydrates then visit our ‘Food Labels’ section. This section contains useful information on recommended amounts and how to apply this when food shopping.
In terms of when to eat, experts agree that most people should aim for three meals a day. Athletes and sportspeople will have different requirements and may find that 6 small meals work better than the usual 3 square meals a day.
Portion sizes will differ for pregnant women, children and the elderly.
Food Portions Guide Index:
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