Healthy eating in early childhood services -®
Healthy eating in early childhood services
In an effort to combat confusion and misinformation Nutrition Australia has updated its Health Eating Pyramid for the first time in 15 years. If you haven't already, now's a great time to check out the new guidelines and review your service's menu to make sure you are providing a well balanced menu which delivers the maximum nutritional benefit to the children in your service.

The new pyramid provides clearer advice on the five core food groups people should eat every day for a healthy balanced diet, consistent with the latest Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Nutrition Australia Vic Division, Executive Officer Lucinda Hancock said health professionals are concerned about the overwhelming amount of conflicting and confusing information about food and nutrition.

"The new Pyramid cuts through the misleading information and fad diets that are getting so much attention, and provides Australians with a credible, flexible and realistic guide to eating well," said Ms Hancock.

"Unfortunately we know that most Australians don't eat what is recommended by the Pyramid and the Dietary Guidelines, and this is why we're seeing such high rates of diet-related diseases.

"The latest health survey data shows that the average Australian is getting more than a third of their daily energy intake from junk foods, while less than seven per cent of people eat enough vegetables and only half of us eat enough fruit," said Ms Hancock.

"We want to get the message across that for most people the simplest way to eat healthier is to cut down on junk food and sugary drinks and to eat mostly from the core food groups - especially to eat more fruit and vegetables," said Ms Hancock.

The previous Pyramid grouped all foods in three layers: The Eat Most layer containing plant-based foods (fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes); the Eat Moderately layer containing dairy foods (and dairy alternatives) and meat (and meat alternatives); and a small top layer with added fats and sugars.

The new Pyramid separates each layer into the five specific food groups, to provide clearer information about how much each one contributes to a balanced diet.

Plant-based foods still take up the largest amount of space, with fruit, vegetables and legumes emphasised in the bottom layer, followed by grain foods, then moderate amounts of dairy and protein foods (lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes) and finally small amounts of healthy fats.

The pyramid also encourages people to drink water, limit salt and added sugar, and to enjoy herbs and spices to flavour foods without using salt.

Australia's changing dietary patterns and cultural diversity are also reflected in the new pyramid, with a wider range of foods included within each group. For instance, the grains food group now includes quinoa and soba noodles and the dairy section includes soy milk to represent calcium-fortified dairy alternatives.

Nutrition Australia's consultation with educators and health professionals shows the Pyramid is particularly effective with children and people with low literacy levels, as it visually communicates the amounts each food group contributes to a balanced diet, from more to less.

For more information on the new Healthy Eating Pyramid click here.
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