The UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) has launched a diet education initiative aimed at simplifying the messages the public receive regarding a healthy diet.

As it launched the new initiative - dubbed the Eatwell Plate - the FSA also published the results of a survey which suggests there is still much work to do in diet education.

The FSA said the results showed that people are confused about what foods they can eat and are not sure what a healthy balanced diet should look like.

The FSA reported that of the 2,094 people surveyed, some 73% recognised it is good to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, but only 11% said we should eat a lot of starchy foods, illustrating that people do not always realise the benefits of eating bread, rice, potatoes and pasta.

While 97% recognised that fresh fruit and vegetables count towards the "five-a-day" target, this figure dropped to about half for tinned (45%) and frozen (54%) fruit and vegetables and dried fruit (53%), all of which also contribute towards the daily fruit and vegetable intake.

On the subject of eating foods high in fat and sugar, 58% recognised they should only be eaten occasionally, but almost a fifth incorrectly said that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables could compensate for the consumption of high fat and sugar foods, which the FSA said was "not a sensible approach".

Rosemary Hignett, head of nutrition at the FSA, said: "The eatwell plate is a reminder of the essentials - the secret is simply knowing the proportions of a balanced diet and making easy, practical food swaps where we can. It's not a ten-minute fad; it's a diet for life that we know will help reduce the number of diet-related illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers, which are on the rise in the UK."

She added: 'This is about a simple, straightforward approach that allows us to enjoy a varied diet that includes foods from all groups. Once armed with the knowledge of what we should try to eat more or less of, there are other tools available such as nutritional front of pack labelling to help with choices about salt, sugar and fat in our food."