Only one fruit juice or smoothie can count towards recommendations to eat ‘five a day’ fruit and vegetables, health watchdogs have declared.
The new advice from Public Health England is part of efforts to persuade the public to reduce its sugar consumption, and follows pledges from Government to introduce a tax on other types of sugary drinks.
The drinks should be limited to a single 150ml glass a day and count as only one portion, revised health guidelines will say.
Many popular smoothies are sold in 250ml bottles and claim to contain two of a person’s “five-a-day”.
However, they are very high in sugar and calories while lower in fibre and vitamins than eating whole fruit and vegetables, health officials say.
The new healthy eating guide by Public Health England tells consumers to eat “at least” five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, and make this a bigger part of their diets.
It also lessens the role of cake, biscuits and sweets in people’s diets and provides a new warning to eat less red and processed meat.
The new Eatwell Guide provides updated guidance on eating more fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates and cutting down on high-fat foods and sugar.
The previous plate had an 8 per cent segment dedicated to Battenberg cake, chocolate, sweets, Victoria sponge, crisps, biscuits and cola.
But the new image puts high-fat and high-sugar foods outside the healthy eating “wheel”, with a warning to “eat less often and in small amounts” which officials say means 3 per cent of the time.
The dairy section – which was previously stuffed with a selection of cheeses including Stilton – has also been slimmed down to almost half its previous size and replaced with pictures of mainly lower fat options.
The beans, pulses, fish, meat and eggs section remains the same size but now advises people to eat more of these foods and “eat less red and processed meat”.
People are also given new advice to drink six to eight glasses a day of water or lower fat milk, or sugar-free drinks including tea and coffee.
The advice for potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates is to “choose wholegrain or higher fibre versions with less added fat, salt and sugar”. This section has been beefed up to give a slightly bigger role for these foods.
A new oils and spreads section also tells people to “choose unsaturated oils and use in small amounts”.
PHE recommended that people eat 30g of fibre per day – equivalent to five portions of fruit and vegetables, two whole-wheat cereal biscuits, two thick slices of wholemeal bread and one large baked potato with the skin on.
Current figures suggest that people only consume around 19g of fibre per day – less than two thirds the recommended amount.
PHE also said adults should consume less sugar, salt and saturated fat, with less than 6g of salt per day and less than 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men.
It said adults currently consume twice as much sugar as recommended while children have more than three times too much.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “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.
“A smoothie, together with fruit juice, now only counts as one of your five-a-day and should be drunk with a meal as it’s high in sugar.”
The guidelines will mean manufacturers will have to redraw their labels to ensure they are not misleading.
Earlier this month, PHE – an agency of the Department of Health – launched a £3.5million advertising campaign to encourage those in middle age to do more exercise and stop eating takeaways. The NHS began its five-a-day campaign in 2003, yet only one adult in three manages to meet this target.
Fruit and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, which prevent cancer and heart disease, and fibre, which aids digestion. Many of these nutrients are lost when they are processed to make smoothies or juices. Such drinks also have far higher sugar levels. A typical 250ml smoothie contains six teaspoons – the recommended adult intake for an entire day.
Yesterday, the Government announced plans to introduce a tax on sugary drinks, of up to 8 pence a can. However, fruit juices and smoothies will be excluded from the tax, as will milk-based drinks.
Jenny Rosborough, campaign manager of Action on Sugar said: “Smoothies can be an option for adults or children who are struggling to get their five-a-day. But they shouldn’t count as more than one as they are not as good a choice as having a whole portion of fruit or veg.”
“You end up consuming a lot more sugar, a lot less fibre and feel less full than if you had eaten a portion of fruit,” the registered nutritionist said.
But Mark Littlewood, director of the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank, said: “Public Health England should spend its time making valuable information accessible so that people can make their own, informed lifestyle decisions. Unfortunately, yet again, they are focusing on small, arbitrary changes in guidelines that seem to move in line with government rhetoric rather than on education.”
The new ‘Eatwell’ plate:
Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and starchy carbohydrates – 38 per cent.
Fruit and veg – 40 per cent
Beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat etc – 12 per cent
Dairy – 8 per cent
Oils and spreads – 1 per cent