Loving the NEW Healthy Eating Pyramid!

HUGE and incredibly exciting news in the Australian health industry this week! The iconic Healthy Eating Pyramid has finally been updated for the first in in 15 years. That’s right, up until now we have been utilising a nutrition tool designed in 1999. On the left is the previous version of the Healthy Eating Pyramid and on the right is the brand new version…  as a Nutritionist I can tell you that I am impressed!

For those of you who aren’t so familiar with the Australia Healthy Eating Pyramids, they are a visual and practical educational tool that have traditionally been used to effectively and simply communicate what proportion of foods should be eaten in order to achieve a healthy balanced diet.

For as long as I can remember, this educational tool sat perched on the wall of the home economics room at school. The same poster watched me grow from my junior school years, guided me into my awkward adolescence, and finally waved goodbye as I graduated and was set free into the big world. The very next year in 2009 I begun my Nutrition degree and was reunited with my old friend from the home economics room. Although we (myself and other nutritionists-to-be) were thoroughly educated using an abundance of research and a range of other education tools, the Healthy Eating Pyramid was a reputable tool that we could then use ourselves as health professionals to educate others. During my degree we had many discussions, or arguments if you will, on the actual dependence of this tool as we felt it was very much so obsolete (like seriously, should a 1kg packet of refined sugar really make an appearance on a health eating pyramid??). The lecturer’s, mostly health professionals themselves, couldn’t have agreed more. Although our education far surpassed what this tool was illustrating, it was the one of the very limited, sound, reputable and evidence based tools available for us as health professionals to use.

I must admit it was a very exciting day in the nutrition world when The Australian Dietary Guidelines were finally updated in 2013, however besides us Nutritionists and other health professionals who are nutritionally-minded, how many people have actually read this document? The summary alone is 45 pages. So this exemplifies another reason why the Australian Healthy Eating Pyramid needed to be updated. The visual context of the pyramid makes for the effective communication of the balanced diet message.

What I am absolutely loving about the new Healthy Eating Pyramid:

  • Vegetables are capturing the spotlight in this pyramid, as they evidently should! Not only that, there is a clear emphasis on GREEN vegetables like bok choy, cabbage and avocado.
  • Overall there is less focus in the grains food group on those carbohydrate-rich foods/energy-dense foods as pasta and rice. The focus is primarily on those wholegrain, nutrient-rich grains like quinoa and cous cous.
  • Vegetables, fruit and grains comprise of about 70% of the Healthy Eating Pyramid, and so they should because these foods are 70% of what we should be eating!
  • The “enjoy herbs and spices” is a tremendous addition to the pyramid. Most herbs and spices have health promoting properties and can successfully enhance the flavour a meal with little to no added calories. This also gives less need to add salt.
  • The emphasis on the importance of healthy fats. It’s great to see these aren’t lumped in with fat in general. In fact it’s great to see that fats like butter have been removed altogether.
  • I can also tell you that no health professional, including myself will be missing butter, sugar or any of the junk food from the previous pyramid!

Of course the Healthy Eating Pyramid doesn’t take into account individual intolerances and allergies but it serves its purpose as an effective communication and educational tool for the wider population. I say, well done Nutrition Australia!

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