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10 Oct

Essential Nutrients

Essential nutrients:

When in doubt about how to interpret the plethora of nutritional advice, it’s a good idea to go back to basics. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advises the government on diet and health and updated the 'Dietary Reference Values' set by the previous advisory board.

Does their guidance hold any surprises on what the typical man, woman and child, should eat? Let’s have a look.

Calories per day

The average adult male is recommended to take in around 2700 calories a day, gradually reducing to 2300 by the age of 75. Even at the age of ten, young males need just over 2000 calories, rising rapidly to 3155 by 18 then reducing gradually to 2600 by middle age.

For women, the pattern is similar but about 700 calories fewer at each point. The average adult female needs around 2000 calories a day. A ten year old female needs just under 2000 calories, almost as many as a male. This also rises through the teenage years, but less steeply, to 2460 at age 18, dropping back to 2100 by middle age.

Carbs per day should be 50% of total calorie intake, of which a maximum of 5% should be sugar. So feel free to add bread, rice, pasta and other starchy veg to your plate.

Fat should not form more than 35% of our total calories, and no more than 11% of those should be saturated fat. Studies have shown a link between high saturated fat and high cholesterol levels, and high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Hence the advice to replace saturated fat with unsaturated types like rapeseed and olive oil.

Dietary fibre

Generally speaking we need to increase this. Whilst the recommended amount is low in terms of grams, it should form a third of what we eat each day. Adults should aim for 30g per day, and children aged 2-16 for example, nearer 15-25g. Aim for 5 portions of fab fruit and veg packed full of vitamins, minerals and fibre and you won’t go far wrong.


Recommended protein levels for adults are set at 0.75 g of protein per kg bodyweight per day. So an adult weighing 74kg would need 55.5g of protein, with more for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Two portions of fish a week, one of which is oily, like salmon, plus beans and pulses should do the trick, and leave little room for red and processed meat, which most of us should reduce.


Salt remains a big no-no and should be very strictly limited. The recommended maximum 6 grams a day (1teaspoon ) is not so much an optimum level but a realistic achievable target, given the amount of salt in shop-bought staples such as bread, for example. Children’s salt levels are recommended to start at less than 1 gram for babies, increasing gradually to the 6 grams suggested from age 11.

How did you do? Once you’ve got the basics under your belt, knowledge is power and can assist in your healthy eating and even weight-loss targets.

If it’s all a bit of a faff, not to worry. Just follow the 'eatwell plate' to fill your face with all the right stuff. It fully reflects the SACN’s guidance. Simples.

If you find these bite-sized nuggets of nutritional information useful, stay tuned. It’s just one of the ways Practically Slim helps you to lose your weight your way. Contact us today to get started. What are you waiting for? www.practicallyslim.com


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