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Big Fat Lie 1 – Eat Less
Healthy Eating Plate in a Well Balanced Diet

Is the government’s recommended Healthy Eating Plate actually good for us and where’s its place in a well balanced diet? Dietitian Juliette Kellow, BSc RD, takes a look at whether the healthy eating plate is all just a big fat lie.

Big Fat Lie 2 – Use the Healthy Eating Plate

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Sutter is not a fan of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Healthy Eating Plate – a visual image that shows a plate divided into various food groups, indicating the types of food we should be eating the most (and least) of in a healthy well balanced diet.

In particular, Sutter is very against government advice to ‘base our meals on more starchy food’ and says this is at the heart of what’s making us fat. She questions the wisdom of the healthy eating plate which recommends we eat more starchy food when, by the admission of the FSA, starchy food is a main provider of energy. As too much energy is linked to weight gain, Sutter believes that advice on the healthy eating plate to eat more of an energy-providing food isn’t right for a well balanced diet.

If you’re confused about how much starchy food you should be eating the WLR Food Diary can help. Enter what you’ve eaten and see what proportion of your daily intake should be carbohydrate. Try it free for 24 hours.

Sutter again argues the case that it’s starchy food that causes the release of insulin, which encourages fat storage. Finally, she outlines that starchy foods are low in nutrients. But it’s not just starchy food that comes into the firing line. She also doesn’t believe there’s sufficient evidence to recommend ‘cutting down on saturated fat’.

WLR’s Opinion On the Healthy Eating Plate…

Let’s start with the arguments against the healthy eating plate and starchy food. Starch is certainly a provider of energy and yes, too much energy is linked to weight gain. But let’s look at the facts:

  • Per gram, fat actually has more than twice as many calories as carbohydrates
  • Fat provides nine calories per gram compared to carbohydrate’s four calories per gram

In other words, fat is far more likely to provide us with an excess of calories when we eat it in large amounts – and it’s an excess of calories that cause a weight problem. In particular, it’s a combination of fats and carbs that are likely to provide us with the most calories – think croissants, crisps, chips, cakes, biscuits and chocolate.

But, it’s worth pointing out that for a well balanced diet, the FSA healthy eating plate doesn’t recommend we fill up on these or indeed any starchy white, processed food – the advice is to swap:

  • White bread
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Cereals

For fibre-rich varieties such as:

  • Wholegrain bread and cereals
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Brown rice

From a nutritional point of view, good intakes of fibre can help to fill us up, especially when they are combined with good intakes of protein – plus fibre-rich diets, and especially diets rich in wholegrains, have been linked to a reduction in a number of health conditions such as certain cancers and heart disease.

Can Starchy Food Be Healthy?

Unprocessed starchy food is not as nutritionally deficient as Sutter would have us believe. It can provide a range of important nutrients including:

  • Several B vitamins (B1, B3, B5 and B6 especially)
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Selenium

Plus, wholegrains contain naturally occurring plant chemicals (phytochemicals) that act as antioxidants).

Regarding the insulin debate, to recap, insulin only causes fat storage when there’s an excess of glucose in the blood – and one of the best ways to control this is by eating fibre-rich, wholegrain carbs that release glucose into the blood at a slow and steady pace, rather than in a massive dose (as is more likely with processed carbs).

So What Is a Well Balanced Diet?

When it comes to starchy food, as with any food: eating too much can contribute to a weight problem. Therefore most health professionals encourage controlling portion sizes of foods like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and cereals  - even the wholegrain ones, as recommended by the healthy eating plate. Indeed, the government’s Change 4 Life campaign recently encouraged eating ‘me size’ portions.

The issue of fat is an interesting one. There are always supporters of the idea that there’s no link between saturated fat and heart disease. However, you have to question the validity of Sutter’s argument for this when all governments of the Western World, together with non-government funded organisations such as the British Heart Foundation, wholeheartedly recommend cutting down on saturated fat to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Also, let’s not forget that fat contains twice as many calories as carbs or protein – so it really is more likely to make you gain weight. And being overweight or obese is one of the key risk factors for heart disease.

Start a Free Trial Today

Struggling to achieve healthy eating plate recommendations? Use your WLR Food Diary to log your food and find out how much carbohydrate you should be eating, as well as protein fat and even fruit and veg! You’ll be on your way to a well balanced diet in no time! Try it free for 24 hours.

Take our FREE trial »

More Info

If you want to find out more about the government’s healthy eating plate including diagrams and advice, try: http://www.eatwell.gov.uk/healthydiet/eatwellplate/

The Government’s Change4Life scheme can give you plenty of advice on how to have a well balanced diet.

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Start a Free Trial Today

Struggling to achieve healthy eating plate recommendations? Use your WLR Food Diary to log your food and find out how much carbohydrate you should be eating, as well as protein fat and even fruit and veg! You’ll be on your way to a well balanced diet in no time! Try it free for 24 hours.

Take our FREE trial »

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