Nutrition Australia has released a new Healthy Eating pyramid! The last pyramid had been outdated for many years and therefore out of use. There had been no replacement in the meantime.
The new pyramid is based off the 2013 Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. The guidelines are exactly the same but some people find the pyramid easier to follow opposed to the pie chart format.
How do you use the pyramid?
The pyramid provides a visual guide to how we should balance our intake of the 5 food group across the day. The pyramid also encourages water intake and the use of herbs and spices. It discourages added sugars and salts – making use of fresh ingredients where possible.
The pyramid layers were based off the guidelines for adults (19-50 years). However, the guide can be useful for anyone aged 1 – 70.
The bottoms layers
These 2 layers consist of plant based foods – vegetables, fruit and grains. These items should make up the majority of our intake. One big change is that grains have been moved from the bottom level of the pyramid to the one above which makes up a smaller portion of our daily intake. This is due to the energy dense nature of grains and that we don’t need to eat a really large quantity of them to receive the nutrients we require. Eating too much of this group can easily lead to weight gain whereas vegetables are low kilojoule, nutrient dense and help prevent the onset of lifestyle related disease.
Vegetables hold the biggest weighting and we should aim for 5 serves per day. Off to the right is fruit of which we should eat 2 pieces per day.
Going one level up is the grains which makes up a smaller proportion but is still important for providing our bodies with quality energy, fibre and other micronutrients. Our grain intake should be made up of wholegrains and products made from them such as wholegrain bread, pasta and cereals. It’s good to get a variety of grains in our day.
The middle layer
This is dairy/ dairy alternatives and meats/ meat alternatives. This group also includes nuts and seeds and legumes. These items are great for providing us with calcium, iron, protein and other nutrients but we definitely do not need as much of them.
The top level
This layer represents healthy fats like olive oil. We only need a very small amount of healthy fats yet they still deserve a place on the pyramid as they are important for our health too.
Sugary “extra” foods have been removed from the pyramid all together!
Why are legumes on two levels? No, this was not a mistake.
Legumes, nuts and seeds are placed on both the vegetables level and the protein level. Some people think this was an accident but it was very much so an intentional manoeuvrer. This is due to the nutrient make up of these three foods. Legumes, nuts and seeds are a fantastic source of protein and can therefore act as a protein substitute – particularly valuable to vegetarians and vegans. They are also part of the vegetable and fruit level as they are a plant based food and provide a lot of fibre. Hence the doubling up.
It’s good for people to have an option and work out what is most clear for them, however, a visual guide can sometimes be a little ambiguous. It is therefore a good idea to refer back to the Australian Dietary Guidelines and double check exactly how many servings per day you are recommended to have and what one portion size is considered to be. Many people may roughly follow the pyramid but are having excessive portion sizes of each group.
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice.
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about healthy eating, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today.
Download the healthy eating pyramid
For a copy of the new healthy eating pyramid click here.