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Revamped ‘Australian Guide to Healthy Eating’ – a Dietitian’s Perspective

This year (2013), the NHMRC of Australia has released the new Eating Guide for all Australians at www.eatforhealth.gov.au. This is a guide for the general population to know and eat what is suitable for them. These are some key points worth highlighting.

1. Biggest challenge for Australians is to eat more Vegetables. Every adult needs to eat at least five serves daily, even if you are over 70 years!
This equals two and a half cups of cooked vegetables, or FIVE CUPS of salad every day. These large amounts require us to include vegetables in our diet throughout the day, not just at our evening meal. Easy ideas to achieve this…

  • Add tomato, mushroom and asparagus to our egg on toast
  • Carrot and capsicum strips with hummus dip
  • Cherry tomatoes, pickled onions and gherkins on vitaweats crackers

2. Fruit remains at two serves a day for everyone over 9 years – but don’t rely on juice. Regular consumption of juice is related to weights outside the healthy weight ranges. Water remains the number one drink of choice.

3. Discretionary Foods – Our Piece of Cake is too big. Adults are eating 36% of their total kilojoule intake from discretionary ‘junk’ foods. Children’s junk food intake is 41% of their total intake. How can we expect healthy individuals when our diets are weighed down by such a high percentage of foods high in sugars, saturated fats and salt. We need to provide our patients with simple alternatives to these options.

4. If you are over 70 – don’t waste what you put in your mouth. As a 70 year old our energy needs decrease, but our need for micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) can increase. For example; Calcium needs increase from 1000mg to 1300mg daily.

Breads and Cereals (grains) recommendations for Ladies decrease from 6 serves a day, down to 4 serves at 50 years and then to 3 serves at 70. But Dairy foods increase to 4 serves a day from age 50. Ladies from age 50 should focus more on low fat dairy products and less breads and cereals in their diet.

5. There has been a reduction in bread and cereal recommendations from the previous guide. It is also recommending our choices must be mostly wholegrain and/or high fibre. Considering the health benefits of wholegrain options and the lack of nutrients in refined white flours – this is an understatement. Virtually all our breads, breakfast cereals, rice, pasta and crackers must be wholegrain.

6. Variety is correlated to reduce risk of chronic disease. Encourage people to try new foods and meals:

  • Try a new recipe each week from either:
  • Use seasonal produce
  • Aim for 30 different foods each day

7. Protein in the Australian diet is typically well above recommendations. Highlighting uncommon protein foods is an excellent option as they contain many other nutrients.

  • Legumes (kidney beans, lentils, chick peas…)
  • Eggs, Tofu, Nuts, Seeds, Tahini
  • Game Meats (‘kanga bangas’, goat…)

8. An Accredited Practicing Dietitian can help all individuals achieve a diet that reflects the current guide, taking into consideration their medical and lifestyle conditions.

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