Eatwell Guide – Starchy Foods and Whole Grains

Public health advice about starchy foods and whole grains explained

UK dietary guidelines

The Eatwell Guide shows the different types of food you need to eat, and in what proportions, for a healthy balanced diet. It’s not meant to represent requirements for any one specific meal or over a particular timescale, rather it represents the overall balance of a healthy diet. It applies to most people regardless of weight, dietary restrictions, preferences or ethnic origin. It does not apply to children under the age of 2 years because they have different nutritional needs.

Eatwell Guide

More on the Eatwell Guide and healthy eating via NHS Choices website.

Starchy foods and whole grains

It’s recommended to base your meals on bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates; choosing whole grain versions where possible.

Starchy food should make up just over a third of the food you eat. Choosing whole grain varieties, such as wholewheat bread, pasta and brown rice, or simply leaving skins on potatoes will help boost fibre intake, or including higher-fibre white versions of, for example, bread or pasta.

Starchy foods are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet. Some people think starchy food is fattening and contributes to weight gain, but gram for gram starchy carbohydrates contain less than half the calories of fat. However, when cooking and serving these foods, adding fats and oils will increase the calorie content.


  • Start the day with a wholegrain breakfast cereal; choose one lower in salt and sugars
  • Have a wholemeal sandwich or roll for lunch
  • Base your evening meal on starchy foods like wholewheat tortilla, cous cous or potatoes with the skins left on

More on starchy foods via NHS Choices website.

The truth about carbs via NHS Choices website.

Why choose whole grain?

The Eatwell Guide recommends we choose whole grain foods where possible as they contain more fibre than white or refined starchy food, and often more of other nutrients. We also digest wholegrain food more slowly so it can help us feel full for longer. Whole grain food includes: wholemeal and whole grain bread, pitta and chapatti, wholewheat pasta, brown rice, whole grain breakfast cereals and whole oats. Higher-fibre white versions of, for example, bread and pasta can also help increase your fibre intake.

Why is fibre important?

Fibre is an important part of a healthy balanced diet. It may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and some cancers, but most importantly it helps digestive health.

However, many people don’t get enough fibre. On average, most people in the UK get about 18g of fibre a day (according to the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey). But the dietary recommendation is that we should aim for at least 30g a day.

More on why fibre is important via NHS Choices website.

More on how to get more fibre into your diet via the NHS Choices website.

An example 1 day meal plan via British Nutrition Foundation website

An example 1 week meal plan via British Nutrition Foundation website

Watch this helpful video by the British Nutrition Foundation on the Eatwell Guide: