What is a balanced diet?

It is important that your child receives all of the nutrients they need to grow and develop1.  Being active and eating well can help to improve your child’s health and their ability to learn. 

It is important that your child receives all of the nutrients they need to grow and develop1.  Being active and eating well can help to improve your child’s health and their ability to learn.

Sometimes it can seem difficult to get your child to eat a wide range of foods, but they provide different nutrients, so it is very important to try to offer them as much variety as possible. 

The Five Food Groups

A balanced diet is the presence of these nutrients in the right proportions.2

Why it's
What is one portion?
  1. Starchy foods
Starchy foods contain carbohydrates and B vitamins, with wholegrain ones being a great source of fibre Pasta, potatoes, rice, oats, breads, cereals, sweet potato, noodles, couscous, green bananas, yam, millet, barley and rye 3 – 5 servings a day. Portions to be spread over the day and eaten with each meal (including snacks) • One slice of bread, one roll or half a pizza.  • Six tablespoons of breakfast cereal or porridge.        • Four wholewheat crisp breads.    • Six tablespoons of pasta, rice, millet or couscous.        • Two small new potatoes.   • Two tablespoons mashed sweet potato.
  1. Protein
Foods high in protein also contain vitamins and minerals such as iron that help the body grow and repair itself Meat, fish, eggs, vegetable protein, nuts, beans, peas, lentils, dahl, Quorn and soya 2 – 3 servings a day   • Two slices of cold ham, turkey and chicken.          • One medium chicken breast.  • Two sausages.        • Three bacon rashers.          • One beefburger.      • One fillet of fish or fish steak.            • One small can of tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines.        • Four fish fingers.          • One cup of cooked lentils or beans.        • Half a large can of beans, chickpeas or lentils.            • A 100g portion of Tofu or Quorn.
  1. Milk and dairy products
Milk and dairy products contain calcium, protein, vitamins including B12, A and D, and can help to keep bones and teeth healthy Milk, cheese, yoghurt, fromage frais, milkshakes 3 servings a day  • One glass of milk.               • One pot of yoghurt or fromage frais.   • One matchbox size piece of cheese or two triangles.          • Half a tin of low-fat custard.
  1. Fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables provide vitamins, antioxidants, and fibre Fruits and vegetables can be enjoyed fresh, frozen, tinned, dried, or juiced At least 5 servings a day   • One apple, orange, pear or banana or similar sized fruit.                • Two smaller fruits such as plums, satsumas, kiwi fruit.                 • A handful of very small fruits such as grapes, cherries or berries.           • Half to one tablespoon of dried fruits such as raisins, prunes or apricots.         • A slice of large fruit such as a piece of melon or a slice of pineapple.        • Three heaped tablespoons of raw, cooked, frozen or canned vegetables.       • A dessert bowl of salad.
  1. Fats and sugars
Foods high in fat and sugars are energy dense but can be lacking in other nutrients. A small amount of fat is an essential part of a balanced diet and helps the body to absorb vitamins A, D and E3 Butter, margarine, cooking oils, cream, salad dressings, chocolate, crisps, sugary soft drinks, sweets, jams, cakes, puddings, biscuits, pastries Do not have too many foods from this group - only in moderation as a treat Keep as occasional treats.5            • 28g packet  of crisps          • Chocolate bar

The Eatwell Guide

The Eatwell Guide shows how much of each food group we should eat overall in order to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. You don’t need to achieve this in every meal, but throughout the day or week in general. 3

The Eatwell guide is appropriate for children over the age of two years old. 

The Eatwell Guide 2016 Page 001


  1. British Nutrition Foundation, 2004: http://nutrition.org.uk/attachments/110_BNF%20Healthy%20eating%20for%20school-aged%20children.pdf Accessed 7th April 2017.
  2. Great Ormond Street Hospital: http://www.gosh.nhs.uk/children/general-health-advice/eat-smart/food-science/food-group-fun Accessed 7th April 2017.
  3. NHS, 2016: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/the-eatwell-guide.aspx Accessed 31st May 2016
  4. National Health Service, 2015: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/Fat.aspx  Accessed 15th March 2016.
  5. Western Sussex Hospitals, http://www.westernsussexhospitals.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/The-Eatwell-Plate-Portion-Sizes.pdf Accessed 22nd March 2017