Widespread Global Praise for Australia's New Food Pyramid
There has been widespread acclaim of Australia's new food Pyramid.
Traditionally, the classic pyramid with its various layers above a broad base and successively smaller layers towards the top has been used as an educational tool to guide people on how to achieve a healthy food balance.
The USA pyramid, that had various versions shown in the images below was replaced by MyPlate in 2011.
Many people find the MyPlate version too simplistic. The weird split into portions away from simple quarters is particularly cumbersome. It does not immediately relate to how foods appear on supermarket shelves.
The Australian version has been upgraded after 15 years to make it easier to understand.
Many people say that it is 'spot on'; just what people need to make better and healthier food choices.
The concept of foods in their common packages has been particularly praised for making it much easier to understand. Similarly the inclusion of alternatives for meat and dairy products means that the pyramid can be used by vegetarians and by those wanting to eat less meat.
This article discusses the merits of this new approach.
Merits of the New Australian Food Pyramid
► Foods rich in fats, sugar, processed carbohydrate and most prepared foods are not shown. The emphasis is on whole foods rather than prepared meals and so called "junk" foods. The pyramid is a guide for people buying ingredients for home cooking and raw foods rather than for prepared meals.
► The lowest and biggest base layer is for fresh vegetables and fruit, with fruit making a smaller contribution due to their high natural sugar and calorie content. In older American, and other pyramid versions breads, cereals rice and pasta were the base layer, with vegetables and fruit second.
Vegetables, with the exception of the starchy root vegetables such as potatoes, corn, sweet potato, turnips and parsnips, generally are rich in fiber and contain very few calories. They have high GI and a very low calorie density (calorie to volume and weight ratios). They are bulky foods that slow the onset of 'hunger pangs' triggered by sugar and carbohydrate consumption.
► Lentils and peas appear twice - once, with the vegetables in the base layer and again with meats, fish eggs and nuts in the fourth layer. This recognises that pulses are a very important source of protein and fiber, especially for vegetarians, vegans and for people who choose to eat less meat in their diet
► Grains have been given the second level, with more prominence than meat, proteins and dairy. Proteins are listed as making an equal contribution for MyPlate. This accords with the general trend for health authorities to recommend that people eat less meat, replacing it with wholemeal grains and leafy vegetables. Many meat proteins have high fat levels.
Grains are rich in nutrients, but are also energy dense, high in calories and so should be eaten less than vegetables and fruit. Some refined grain products such as couscous, white rice and processed foods are included as most people eat grains based products in these foods.
Legumes such as chickpeas and lentils could have been listed in the grains category because they resemble the carbohydrate profile and calorie content of grains rather than vegetables. But legumes and pulses are listed twice: as a protein source (for vegetarians and those choosing to eat less meat), as well as with the vegetables, due to their high fibre content and nutrients.
► Dairy (with alternatives) and meat/eggs/fish (with nuts, seeds and legumes as alternatives) are listed as the third layer of the pyramid. The listing of the alternatives is a good feature because it allows the pyramid to be used by most people including vegetarians, vegans and people wanting to eat less dairy and eggs. The alternative choices are clearly displayed.
► The top layer is for healthy fats with olive oil displayed as the premier choice. This reflects the widespread acceptance of the Mediterranean diet as a healthy choice.
► The listing of herbs and spices and plain water at the base is also a good addition.
► There is a clear warning to limit the amount of added salt and sugar in the diet. The reduced emphasis on dairy and meat adds to the message promoting a diet based on wholefoods especially vegetables, fruit grains and legumes.
© 2015 Dr. John Anderson