Out with the Old!

| Post published on March 30, 2016
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Viva! Health have been campaigning for change for years and it’s been a long time coming, but it seems things are beginning to change. Public Health England (PHE) has completely redesigned and reworded their Eatwell Guide in a move away from animal-based foods favouring more plant-based options. It seems that they are finally responding to the huge body of scientific evidence showing how harmful meat and dairy are to health. The new Eatwell Guide is designed to illustrate how much of each given food group we should eat to make up a healthy diet.  

The new guidelines represent a real departure, emphasising the importance of fruit, veg and complex carbs (such as brown rice and wholemeal bread) in the diet. The wording reflects a shift in emphasis from meat and dairy to plant-based foods, a view more in keeping with the current research which acknowledges the harm meat and dairy do to our health and the environment. 

The guide says: Beans, peas and lentils (which are all types of pulses) are good alternatives to meat because they’re naturally very low in fat, and they’re high in fibre, protein, and vitamins and minerals. Pulses, or legumes as they are sometimes called, are edible seeds that grow in pods and include foods like lentils, chickpeas, beans and peas. Other vegetable-based sources of protein include tofu, bean curd and mycoprotein; all of which are widely available in most retailers.

The dairy category has been renamed ‘Dairy and alternatives’ and the amount we should eat has been reduced from 15 per cent to eight per cent.  Explaining why dairy products have been downgraded a PHE spokesperson said: “Our independent expert body said you can get calcium from across the diet and not just from dairy products.

“We are currently meeting or exceeding calcium recommendations whereas we are still consuming too much saturated fat and salt.

Alison Tedstone, PHE chief nutritionist said: “Our new Eatwell Guide helps people to understand what a healthy balanced diet looks like.

“The evidence shows that we should continue to base our meals on starchy carbohydrates, especially wholegrain, and eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day.

“On the whole, cutting back on foods and drinks that are high in saturated fat, salt, sugar and calories would improve our diets, helping to reduce obesity and the risk of serious illnesses such as heart disease and some cancers.”

Viva! Health applauds the move! This is a real departure for the UK government and following the World Health Organisation’s big announcement last year that processed meat causes cancer and red meat probably does too – things are finally happening.

The Carbon Trust sustainability assessment said that the Eatwell Guide would have a much lower impact on the environment than the current UK diet. We are finally joining up the dots between what is good for us and what is good for the environment.

It’s a shame animals aren’t included in the picture as this week the government announced their plan to deregulate welfare standards. If this goes ahead it will have a huge detrimental effect on animals, the planet and our health with the inevitable increased use of antibiotics and new emerging diseases (like BSE, bird flu and E. coli O157) that result from intensive farming practices.

The simple solution is clear – go vegan! Take our 30 Day Vegan challenge and see how easy it is – you’ll feel great too! 

Here’s a comparison of the new advice and the old… 

Food group

New advice

Old advice

Fruit and veg (at least 5-a-day)

39 per cent

33 per cent

Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta (choose  wholegrain varieties)

37 per cent

33 per cent

Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins

12 per cent

12 per cent and emphasis shifted from meat to beans and pulses

Dairy and alternatives

eight per cent

15 per cent and now includes dairy-free varieties

Food and drink high in fat and/or sugar

three per cent

A combined category of eight per cent

Oils and spreads

one per cent


About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
I joined Viva! as a health campaigner in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. My scientific training helped me research and write numerous reports, guides and fact sheets for Viva! including Meat the Truth, Fish-Free for Life, One in Nine (breast cancer and diet) and the substantial report on the detrimental health effects of consuming dairy; White Lies. This accompanied Viva!’s report The Dark Side of Dairy which spelt out the inherent cruelty of dairy farming. We were the first UK group to take on the dairy industry in this way, and many of our supporters go vegan after reading these reports.

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