Monday was a great day. I started my little job at Melbourne Grammar teaching the year nine students about healthy meals and snacks. If you were lucky to be in the world’s most liveable city, you were blessed by an absolutely marvellous day of sunshine and no clouds. All day. I took advantage of the location and enjoyed a park bench lunch and walk around the Tan.
And, *drum roll please* after 15 years, Nutrition Australia launched their new healthy eating pyramid.
Dietitians and Nutritionists around Australia were rejoicing and sending virtual high fives via tweets, retweets, instagrams, regrams and facebook posts. I think I personally received about four emails and several facebook tags, and it even made it to my little rural town in Gippsland before I did. Honestly, I don’t think we’ve seen something shared so much on social media since the whole Pete-evans-paleo fiasco.
So what’s all the fuss about – why has the pyramid been revamped?
In 2013 an updated version of the Australian Dietary Guidelines were released.
Before I go on – let’s all take a moment to remember that these guidelines are based on the best available scientific evidence (55,000 new papers in fact) and not something the government plucked out of thin air in a conspiracy to increase our waistlines and make us all sick.
So the guidelines prompted a revision, and well, with a new fad diet arising each month, each claiming to hold the key to perfecting our diets, a sensible resource was needed to help Australia cut through the confusion and adopt a sensible approach to eating.
And with a sensible approach to eating means getting the basics right.
Whilst we are trying to perfect our diets by hailing kale, breakfasting on acai berry smoothie bowls and putting butter in our coffee, it seems that most of us are failing to get the key foundations right.
Fun-hard-population health survey-fact: 7% of Australians are currently meeting the recommended five serves of vegetables per day, and only 50% are meeting fruit recommendations. To add to this, approximately 1/3 of our energy intake is coming from those discretionary choices. Those foods we should have sometimes.
So quite frankly, as a nation we have work to do.
So back to the new pyramid.
What’s the same?
Essentially it’s a new revamped version on those key evidence-based messages we hear all the time:
∼ Enjoy a variety of foods from the five food groups
∼ Choose mostly plant-based foods
∼ Limited added saturated fats, sugar and salt, and
∼ Choose water as your main drink
So what’s changed?
1. Well, the name for starters. It has changed from the Healthy Living Pyramid released in 2004 & 2007, to the Healthy Eating Pyramid.
This is because the focus of the 2015 pyramid is more on food and nutrition, so physical activity has been removed from the pyramid and promoted only in the tag line.
2. The previous pyramids have separated foods into three layers – the ‘eat more’, ‘eat moderately’ and ‘eat in small amounts’ layers. Now, these layers have been split into the specific foods groups to provide greater detail on the types and proportions of foods we should eat in a day.
3. So because of this, fruit and vegetable remain on the bottom layer and grains have been shifted up a notch. These groups still make up the largest part of the pyramid – and this is because they should be making up approximately 70% of a healthy diet.
4. Now the top layer only refers to healthy fats. I love this. Previously we have been encouraged to limit the total amount of added fats and sugars we consume.
Now, the focus has been shifted from the foods we should restrict and now the health benefits of small amounts of unsaturated fats and oils are being hailed.
5. But added sugars have not been ignored. They are out of the pyramid and in with the salt shaker to convey the importance of limiting these as well.
6. I also love the addition of ‘enjoy herbs and spices’.
These pantry essentials are an affordable way to bring a meal to life without the need to add salt or sugar. Plus it’s another way of encouraging people to expand their palates, experiment in the kitchen and spice up their dinner plates.
But I know the question on all your lips is..
Why are legumes and beans in two food groups?
You will also find this is the case with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. That is because these plant-based foods are incredibly nutritious.
Like a vegetable they provide vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fibre.
But they also are a good source of protein – like our lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. So for those vegetarian and vegans amongst us, legumes and beans are an incredibly important contribution to their diets.
Personally, I love this new revamped pyramid. I firmly believe that promoting an eating pattern that is full of minimally processed, plant-based foods, a moderate intake of meat and reduced-fat dairy and small amounts of unsaturated oils is the best message for the general public, and this is what the pyramid does. It’s credible, flexible and suits the needs of the Australian population.
Nutrition Australia, this is my virtual high five to you. Because I don’t think my 7 (as of Wednesday night at 8.05pm) #newpyramid tweets are enough.
What do you think of the #newpyramid?