The New Healthy Eating Pyramid

By : | 1 Comment | On : May 24, 2015 | Category : Blog, Nutrition

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Healthy Eating Pyramid

Just last week Nutrition Australia has released the updated Healthy Eating Pyramid. It has a fresh, healthy (of course) new look including some major changes which will hopefully further inspire Australians to enjoy a wide variety of nutritious whole foods, mostly plants. Consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines, it portrays a positive message about both the types and proportions of food we should aim to eat each day as the foundation of a healthy and balanced diet.

We love how the new pyramid continues to incorporate all the core food groups (no foods are completely off limits) with a healthy emphasis on vegetables and fruits. For many families the new pyramid will help to reinforce that they are on the right track with their eating habits but for some who need some steering towards a more balanced approach, this may help them get back on track.

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Top 5 health messages from the new Healthy Eating Pyramid

1. Eat mostly plant based foods – with research showing only 7% of us enjoying the recommended serves of ‘vegetables and legumes‘ and only half enjoy enough ‘fruit’, they now dominate the pyramid demonstrating our daily intake of food should predominantly be vegetables. ‘Grains’ also play an important role in our daily diet and offer many essential nutrients.  The pyramid encourages us to continue to include these in our diets and to choose unrefined whole grains such as wholegrain breads, quinoa, couscous, oats, rice, pasta, crispbreads etc.

Here are 5 practical tips to encourage your children to eat and enjoy enough vegetables:

  • Meal plan to ensure your meals include a variety of foods from the core food groups and offer enough fruits and vegetables as well as including whole grains.
  • Write shopping lists based on the ingredients needed for the meals you have chosen to cook for the week ahead
  • Choose vegetables that are in season as they are often cheaper, better quality, better tasting and higher in nutritional value
  • Shop smart by sticking to your shopping list, avoiding impulse purchases and sugar and salt laden processed foods
  • Try big batch cooking to ensure you have a few nutritious homemade meals in the freezer without the need to resort to more expensive, less nutritious convenience or takeaway meals.

{**READ OUR 50 RECIPES TO ENCOURAGE KIDS TO EAT THEIR VEGGIES FOR MORE INSPIRATION**}

2. Eat moderate amounts of ‘lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes’ as well as ‘milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives’ - these two core food groups offer a range of essential nutrients needed for children’s growth, development and immunity. They provide primarily protein as well as calcium (for the dairy and alternatives group) and iron, zinc, B12, iodine, healthy fats (lean meats etc) among many other vitamins and minerals. Be sure to include a variety of all protein sources and for strong bones, healthy teeth and muscle function adequate amounts of calcium throughout the day.

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3. Include ‘healthy fats‘ – the small top layer features ‘healthy fats’. Fats are important in our daily diet to ensure we can absorb fat soluble nutrients such as vitamin A, D, E and K. They also provide us with the essential omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for optimal brain development and eye health in children as well as hormone function, heart health and general wellbeing. Targeting ‘healthy fats’ in the pyramid directs Australians to choose unrefined polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats from plant sources, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocados and nut and seed oils. It also reinforces the health message to limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats.

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3. Limit ‘salt and added sugar’ – sugar has been sidelined in the update of the new pyramid and now sits with salt as something we should all limit in our diets. The ‘moderation’ message can easily be taken out of context and with the average Australian consuming a third of their daily energy intake from ‘junk’ foods. Hopefully this will help encourage people to move toward eating more nutrient dense wholefoods and less processed foods.  Being smart about the portion sizes and how often your child is offered ‘sometimes‘ foods is important to reflect on.

Here are 5 practical tips to help lower your child’s intake of salt and sugar:

  • Eat and enjoy meals and snacks based on foods from the core food groups seen in the Healthy Food Pyramid
  • Make your own muffins, slices, biscuits using healthy(ier) recipes that include less sugar, salt, additives and preservatives compared with store-bought/processed varieties
  • Read food labels and ingredients lists to make sure you are choosing processed/canned foods that include ‘no added salt’, are ‘salt reduced’ or have ‘no added sugars’
  • Avoid using salt in your family’s meals (1 meal 3 ways) and use herbs and spices as an alternative
  • Choose water as a drink (for children older than 12 months of age), enjoy fresh fruit and avoid soft drinks, cordials, fruit juices and processed fruit snacks.

4. Enjoy ‘herbs and spices’ – often neglected, herbs – fresh or dried, and spices contribute a lot of flavour to meals without the need for sugar and salt. They also contribute some important phytochemicals as well as antibiotic, antiviral and antioxidant properties helping to aid digestion, maximise immunity and promote general health and wellbeing. Introducing herbs and spices early to your baby and toddler will also help them to transition on to your favourite family foods as well as encourage them to be accepting of a wide range of flavours.

Here are 5 practical tips to introduce more herbs and spices to your kids:

  • Once established on solids introduce a small amount of herbs into their purees and finger foods
  • Add herbs such as parsley, basil, thyme and mint and/or spices such as ground coriander, paprika and/or cumin to their favourite meals e.g. spaghetti bolognese, meatballs, pies
  • Begin with small amounts, if they are unfamiliar with the flavour,  and gradually increase as they become more accepting
  • Plant a herb garden with your toddler or older children and plan meals based around the herbs you are growing
  • Involve older toddlers and children with meal preparation where appropriate to encourage them to interact with herbs and spices.

5. ‘Choose water’ as a drink – obviously for babies under 12 months of age we encourage breastmilk (and/or formula) to be your child’s main drink but beyond this we encourage water to be the only other drink of choice. It is the best drink to stay hydrated and supports many biological functions within the body. Being hydrated also helps our children concentrate, feel well and give them the energy they need to run and play. Drinking enough water also helps prevent us from confusing thirst with hunger.  Read more about why babies and toddlers don’t need fruit juice.

“Please note that the Healthy Eating Pyramid is intended for the average ‘healthy’ person. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who have a chronic health condition, food intolerance or allergies should speak to their GP or an Accredited Practising Dietitian for specific dietary advice.”

Disclaimer:  This information does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to replace the personalised care and advice given to you by your health professional team. You as the reader/parent/caregiver must always discuss any concerns or questions about the health and well being of your baby or toddler with a healthcare professional.  Please refer to our full disclaimer here.

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