The Dietary Guidelines - spelling out what foods Australians should eat - are being updated to reflect the latest knowledge on nutrition, diet and health. This latest 2011 revision has focused on food choice recommendations rather than on how much of certain nutrients you should consume, which was the approach of the 2003 version of the Dietary Guidelines. It runs for 288 pages with over 1,000 references. Here's a handy summary and a list of what's changed.
What are the Dietary Guidelines about?
The Dietary Guidelines have information about the types and amounts of foods, food groups and dietary patterns that aim to:
- promote health and wellbeing;
- reduce the risk of diet-related conditions, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity; and
- reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancers.
Devised by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC), they apply to all healthy Australians, as well as those with common health conditions such as being overweight. They do NOT apply to people who need special dietary advice for a medical condition, or to the frail elderly.
Who are they meant for?
The Dietary Guidelines are for use by health professionals, policy makers, educators, food manufacturers, food retailers and researchers, so they can find ways to help Australians eat healthy diets.
Here are the 5 Guidelines as they appear on the EatforHealth website:
Eat 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, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
- lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, 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 water.
Limit intake of foods and drinks containing saturated and trans fats, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.
a. Limit intake of foods and drinks containing saturated and trans fats
- Include small amounts of foods that contain unsaturated fats
- Low-fat diets are not suitable for infants.
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.
c. Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars. In particular, limit sugar-sweetened drinks.
d. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit intake.
To achieve and maintain a healthy weight you should 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.
Encourage and support breastfeeding. Breast milk is best for baby and for mother.
Care for your food: prepare and store it safely.
Here's what's changed since 2003
Evidence suggests Australians need to eat more:
- vegetables and legumes/beans
- wholegrain cereals
- low fat milk, yoghurt, cheese
- fish, seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes and beans (including soy), and nuts and seeds.
- red meat (young females only)
Evidence suggests Australians need to eat less:
- starchy vegetables (eg. potatoes)
- refined cereals
- high and medium fat dairy foods
- red meats (adult males only)
- Food and drinks high in saturated fat, added sugar, salt, or alcohol (e.g. fried foods, most take-away foods from quick service restaurants, cakes and biscuits, chocolate and confectionery, sweetened drinks).
- The 2011 draft tries to be practical – it focusses on food groups (vegetables, fruit, grains etc) rather than nutrients (protein, vitamin C, potassium, etc) which was the approach of the 2003 version.
- They’ve been revised with recent scientific evidence in mind about the relationships between food, dietary patterns and health outcomes. But in essence, it’s still the same list of things to eat eg more vegetables, more fruit, less 'junk'. All of which you'd recognise as the standard advice.
- Alcohol has been mentioned at last - which is good in my opinion.
- Legumes/beans have been included in the Vegetable group as well as as a Meat alternative for vegetarians.
- Red meat should be eaten more by young women but less by adult men, an interesting split but one that bears out when you see the size of steaks offered for blokes in pubs.
- There's more of a move to cut back on potatoes and refined grains such as white bread and white rice which we already eat enough of.
- Take-aways, fast food, fizzy drinks, chocolate and lollies, cakes and biscuits are for the first time specifically listed as foods to cut back on. There are in essence 'junk food' that is singled by name. And for good reason.
Does this mean I'll have to change what I eat?
In all likelihood. Most Australians need to increase their intake of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and milk products – particularly reduced-fat types.
Most of us already consume too much junk food which the NH&MRC have called "energy-dense nutrient-poor foods and drinks which are high in either saturated fat, salt and added sugar"!
Most men will have to cut back on the size of their meat serves, while some women should eat more red meat.
This is a DRAFT only. Consultation on the draft Australian Dietary Guidelines closes on 29 February 2012. For more information and to download the pdf's, visit www.eatforhealth.gov.au.