Eating a healthy, balanced diet based on whole foods can help us achieve optimal health throughout life. But knowing exactly what to eat can be confusing when there's so much conflicting advice from books, websites, TV programs, magazines and celebrity chefs. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has released the latest 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines based on scientific evidence on what we should all be eating. Here's my handy summary to make things easier to digest:
Points to note first
- The Guidelines apply to all healthy Australians of all ages and backgrounds.
- Each Guideline is considered as important as the others.
- The guidelines aim to help reduce the risk of Australians developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and diet-linked cancers. These are the illnesses that are the greatest burden on our hospital system and are most directly influenced by what we eat.
- But they are also mindful of the proportion of Australians now overweight.
- The Guidelines are based on whole foods like vegetables and meats, not vitamin supplements.
- The Guidelines do NOT apply to people with medical conditions requiring a special medical diet or to frail elderly people who are at risk of malnutrition.
It's taken three years to refine the draft Guidelines which went out for public comment way back in 2011. See my earlier post on them here. You can compare them to this final version from Feb 2013.
Dietary Guideline 1
To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs.
Children and adolescents should eat sufficient nutritious foods to grow and develop normally. They should be physically active every day and their growth should be checked regularly.
Older people should eat nutritious foods and keep physically active to help maintain muscle strength and a healthy weight.
Dietary Guideline 2
Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five groups every day:
• Plenty of vegetables, including different types and colours, and legumes/beans
• Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
• Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
• Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat (reduced fat milks are not suitable for children under the age of 2 years)
And drink plenty of water.
Dietary Guideline 3
Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.
a. Limit intake of foods high in saturated fat such as many biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies, processed meats, commercial burgers, pizza, fried foods, potato chips, crisps and other savoury snacks.
• Replace high fat foods which contain predominantly saturated fats such as butter, cream, cooking margarine, coconut and palm oil with foods which contain predominantly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as oils, spreads, nut butters/pastes and avocado.
• Low fat diets are not suitable for children under the age of 2 years.
b. Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added salt.
• Read labels to choose lower sodium options among similar foods.
• Do not add salt to foods in cooking or at the table.
c. Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars such as confectionary, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks.
d. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit intake. For women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.
Dietary Guideline 4
Encourage, support and promote breastfeeding.
Dietary Guideline 5
Care for your food; prepare and store it safely.
Source: fom the pdf "Australian Dietary Guidelines 2013" on the Eat for Health website.