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Eat a varied diet and primarily choose plant-based foods - that is the strategy for a healthy and nutritious diet. In its ten guidelines for healthy eating, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (DGE) says: 'No single food can supply all nutrients. The more varied you eat, the lower the risk of an imbalanced diet.' The DGE nutrition circle illustrates what a wholesome, balanced diet can look like.

DGE Ernäh­rungs­kreis

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The DGE emphasises that the values mentioned in the nutrition circle are guidelines. They point the way, and if you stick to them, you can be sure you are eating healthy.  But of course, you can deviate from them, depending on your individual preferences.  The main thing is that you are generally in the right direction.  After all, eating is more than just supplying nutrients - it is also a pleasure, an opportunity to spend time with others, and even one of the most important sources of happiness in everyday life.

Satisfiers: grains, cereal products, and potatoes (1)

Wholegrain bread, oats and other cereal grains for muesli, rice, potatoes and pasta will keep you feeling full and satisfied. Along with fruit and vegetables, they are the foundation of a nutritious daily diet.  As carbohydrates, they not only supply you with important energy, but are also a source of fibre, minerals, and B vitamins - especially in the form of whole grains. 

Dietary fibre: a true health hero

Dietary fibre has few calories, but still fills you up, keeps you satisfied, and aids good digestion as well.  Eating plenty of fibre lowers the risk of many diet-related illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol and dyslipidemia. The DGE recommends eating at least 30 grammes of dietary fibre per day.

After all, eating is more than just supplying nutrients - it is also a pleasure, an opportunity to spend time with others, and even one of the most important sources of happiness in everyday life.

You can easily get enough fibre if you choose whole grain bread and pasta over versions made with refined white flour and eat three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day. Two slices of wholegrain bread, for example, contain around 7.5 grammes of dietary fibre - the same amount as ten slices of white bread. Moreover, wholegrain pasta has more than twice the amount of fibre as regular pasta.

Legumes are particularly high in fibre. Cabbage, carrots, kohlrabi (German turnip), bell peppers, fennel and Brussels sprouts are also good sources of fibre.  When it comes to fruit, berries are the dietary fibre champions.  And don't forget apples and bananas either.

Fruits & vegetables (2+3)

Three servings of veggies, two of fruit

Enjoy five servings of fruit and vegetables daily - they provide minerals, trace elements, vitamins and fibre. Raw, in a salad, or cooked - they taste just as good served with meals as they do as a snack. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (DGE) [German Nutrition Society] recommends eating at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day. One serving roughly corresponds to a handful.  According to the DGE, about 400 grammes of vegetables - either cooked or as raw vegetables or in a salad - and 250 grammes of fruit is a good amount for an adult person.

Fruits and vegetables - with the exception of high-fat varieties like avocados and olives - are low in calories and have a low energy density. That means you can eat larger quantities of them without taking in many calories. At the same time, fruits and vegetables contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals. These phytochemicals, which give plants their taste, smell and colour, may potentially protect you against many illnesses and diseases.

Legumes such as beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils also count as vegetables. In addition to fibre and vitamins, they also supply valuable protein.  You can add unsalted nuts to the list as well.

Dairy products - the daily fitness boosters (4)

Milk and dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt, quark and cottage cheese should be on the daily menu.  They provide high-quality protein, easily digestible fat, and lactose that is well-tolerated and absorbed by the body.  In addition, they also supply our bodies with calcium for the bones and contain B vitamins (especially vitamin B2), fat-soluble A and D vitamins, as well as iodine and fluoride.

However, don't make it too much of a good thing.  Milk and dairy products also contain a lot of fat, so a smart alternative is to switch to low-fat products containing 1.5 per cent fat.  As exemplary guidelines for adults, the DGE recommends 200 to 250 grammes of low-fat milk or dairy products and 50 to 60 grammes of low-fat cheese per day.

In recent years, milk and dairy products have been given a bad name because of the saturated fatty acids they contain - but wrongly so, as scientific survey studies show. Nutritionists point out that in large studies, milk drinkers even have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who shun it.

If you don't like or cannot tolerate milk and dairy products, you need good alternatives to replace them, such as legumes and grains in a healthy combination.

From farm and sea (5)

Meat, sausages and cold cuts

Meat supplies iron for blood cell formation, zinc for the immune system, and many B vitamins.  It also contains all the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce itself - in the amount and form that we can absorb particularly well.  But meat, sausages and cold cuts also contain a high level of saturated fatty acids.  Eating too much of these foods can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Therefore, if you eat meat, sausages and cold cuts, it is best to choose low-fat varieties, as recommended by the DGE.  Your guideline value: 300 to 600 grammes of low-fat meat, low-fat sausage or low-fat cold cuts a week is plenty for adults.

Cold cuts particularly contain hidden fats and a lot of sodium, including pickling salt - both of which you should consume sparingly.  Ham, deli turkey breast and other cold cuts contain less fat than liverwurst, salami, and minced meat.

If you prefer not to eat any meat at all, you need to find good alternatives that supply these nutrients, trace elements, minerals and vitamins.  For example, legumes, nuts, seed oils, milk, dairy products, eggs and soy, and wheat protein products - best combined in a healthy way.  It requires some know-how to get it right, but is not impossible..


Fish also supplies us with vital, easily digestible protein, selenium and vitamin D. Saltwater fish are also an important source of iodine, which we need for a healthy thyroid. Fish - especially fatty saltwater fish such as herring, mackerel, and salmon - also provide us with omega-3 fatty acids that protect the cardiovascular system.

Eating one or two fish-based meals per week is a good way to go - preferably fish from recognized sustainable, responsibly sourced, and environmentally friendly fisheries. As a guideline for adults, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (DGE) [German Nutrition Society] recommends 80 to 150 grammes of lean saltwater fish and a smaller serving of about 70 grammes of fatty saltwater fish.


Eggs are a good source of high-quality proteins, iron and essential nutrients such as fat-soluble vitamins. At the same time, egg yolk is high in fat and cholesterol, and so in the past, people were often warned not to eat too many eggs. As with any food, you should not overdo it with eggs. However, among health and medical professionals and scientists, eggs have since lost their bad reputation as being loaded with cholesterol. 

Several large-scale scientific studies have shown that eggs most likely do not contribute to causing cardiovascular disease in healthy people. The Deutsche Herzstiftung [German Heart Foundation] points out: the more important thing is your diet as a whole and what the total proportion of saturated fats is in the foods you eat. It cites studies which have shown that eating four eggs a week did not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Since late 2017, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (DGE) [German Nutrition Society] has refrained from making any statement about eggs in its ten rules. But it still makes sense to consume eggs in moderation. In particular, people with type 2 diabetes and/or LDL cholesterol levels over 200 should limit how many eggs they eat.

Fat: It's the Mix that Matters (6)

Fat is vital for life. It helps us absorb fat-soluble vitamins´. Unsaturated fats provide us with essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce itself. Monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids protect us against cardiovascular disease. In the right ratio to each other, they alleviate inflammation, reduce the risk of diabetes, and are presumed to counteract colon cancer. Today, nutritionists believe that the type and ratio of fatty acids to each other is more important for health than the amount of fat consumed.

Sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids include rapeseed oil, soybean oil, almonds, as well as fatty fish. Olive oil, avocados and nuts have a larger proportion of - also healthy - monounsaturated fatty acids.

Animal fat in meat, butter, milk and dairy products, and eggs primarily contain saturated fatty acids. Eating too much saturated fat is considered unhealthy. This is especially true of trans fats, which can be produced, for example, by heating oils and fats to very high temperatures or reheating them several times and also by industrial hardening of fats.

Avoid trans fats and do not heat fats to high temperatures

Trans fats are unsaturated fatty acids with an altered molecular structure. They are contained in crisps and other processed foods as 'hydrogenated fats' and can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. They should not account for more than one per cent of your daily intake of fat.

Trans fats can also be produced when they are used for cooking at home, when we heat unsaturated fat, such as olive oil, to the point that it starts to smoke. Moreover, such overheating also produces acrolein, a toxin that is deemed to be carcinogenic.

Olive oil and rapeseed oil, for example, are well suited for cooking, steaming, stewing, and sautéing. The more heat-resistant rapeseed oil and other heat-resistant oils, such as avocado oil, can also be used for browning or frying at higher temperatures. When frying foods, however, always make sure that the fat does not get so hot that it reaches its smoking point.

How much fat is okay?

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (DGE) [German Nutrition Society] recommends that fats comprise about 30 per cent of your daily calories, with about 70 per cent of that in the form of unsaturated fat. What does that specifically mean? An example: a woman of average height and normal weight who lives a mainly sedentary lifestyle (little exercise) requires approx. 2,000 calories per day. 30 per cent of that total is 600 calories. The recommended amount of fat can be easily calculated: each gramme of fat has approximately 9.1 calories, so just about 66 grammes of fat per day would be okay - with as much as possible of it being plant-based.  

Please note: prepared dressings and mayonnaise contain a lot of saturated fatty acids, as do processed soups, sauces, convenience foods and ready-made meals. People often underestimate how much 'invisible' fat is contained in some foods, such as in sausages, cheese, and pastries. One serving of curry sausage with chips, for example, contains more fat than a woman's body needs for the entire day.

Butter and margarine

Whether you prefer butter or margarine is a matter of taste. Butter is an animal fat and contains saturated fatty acids. It is natural and easy to digest. When using margarine, choose products that have a high percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids. This information can be found on the packaging. Margarine should be processed as little as possible due to its trans fats. According to new analyses, most spreadable fats only contain one to two per cent of trans fats anyway.

Stay Hydrated (7)

Rule of thumb: You should drink about 1.5 litres per day. The best thirst quencher is water. Juice spritzers or unsweetened herbal and fruit tea are also good choices. Avoid sugary drinks - they supply energy, but no minerals, trace elements or vitamins. Just like sweets, they also cause the insulin level to rise sharply - which in turn quickly makes you hungry again.

Coffee and black or green tea can also be included as part of your daily intake. However, you should not use them to quench your thirst because of their stimulatory effect.

Sugar and Sweeteners

Added sugar contains calories but no minerals, vitamins or fibre. It is often added to coffee, sweets or cakes, to juices or as a flavour enhancer in many processed foods. It quickly makes us hungry again and can therefore lead to overweight and the associated health risks. It also increases the risk of cavities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) thus strongly advocates limiting such sugar to less than ten per cent of the recommended daily calorie intake. In 2015, it even recommended reducing the amount of sugar to less than five per cent of the total calorie intake. In line with this, a woman of average height and normal weight should therefore eat a maximum of 50 grammes of sugar per day, and according to the new version, she should ideally consume only 25 grammes of sugar. That is about six teaspoons. If you've ever baked a cake or happily snacked on something sweet, you know that is quite a small amount. The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung (DGE) [German Nutrition Society] therefore considers the previous target amount of ten per cent to suffice. That is still considerably less than most people in Germany consume.

Natural sugars in fresh fruit, vegetables and milk are not included in these guidelines, but added sugar in its various forms, whether granulated sugar, brown sugar, dextrose, fructose or raw sugar, definitely count.

However, nutritionists also advise not to be too strict with yourself. If you compulsively avoid eating anything sweet, you will feel deprived of the natural pleasure of having an occasional sweet treat. So, it is better to enjoy a piece of cake, a praline or a candy bar every now and then - without a guilty conscience. 


It is best to use salt that is enriched with iodine and fluoride. However, too much salt in your food can contribute to high blood pressure. According to the DGE, you should not consume more than six grammes of salt per day. That is equivalent to roughly to one level teaspoon. That's not much -especially when you consider that many processed foods and ready-made meals contain considerably more salt than we would use if we made them ourselves. Sausage, cold cuts and cheese also often contain a lot of salt. So, save on the salt when cooking and instead add flavourful seasonings to foods, such as pepper, herbs, paprika, curry, mint or other spices. You'll see that a dish seasoned this way is as tasty or even tastier than food seasoned with salt as usual.

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