(Did you know what the old ones said?)
Released a week ago, the new Australian Dietary Guidelines replace those published in 2003, which in turn built on recommendations that had been around since 1998. Details of how the guidelines were developed are summarised on the Australian government's Eat for Health website, which also includes downloadable copies of the guidelines (in full and summarised form) themselves.
|The new 2013 guidelines in plate form.|
There are five main recommendations in the new guidelines, of which three relate to food choices (the others are to promote breastfeeding, and to store and prepare food hygienically and safely). These three are:
1. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs:
2. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the following five groups each day, and drink plenty of water:
3. Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol:
- 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.
- 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).
- Limit intake of foods high in saturated fat (e.g., biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies, processed meats, commercial burgers, pizza, fried foods, potato chips, crisps).
- Replace high fat foods which contain predominantly saturated fats (e.g., butter, cream, cooking margarine, coconut and palm oil) with foods which contain predominantly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (e.g., oils, spreads, nut butters/pastes and avocado).
- Low fat diets are not suitable for children under the age of 2 years.
- Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added salt; read labels to choose lower sodium options among similar foods; and do not add salt to foods in cooking or at the table.
- Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars such as confectionery sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks.
- 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.
Complementing these broad guidelines are lots of specifics, including examples of how to achieve them, calculators and quizzes to determine where you fall in different areas, and recommended serving sizes and serve per day quotas.
As with the 2003 guidelines, it is recommended that adults eat at least 5 serves of vegetables, 2 serves of fruit, around 6 serves of grains, 1-3 serves protein equivalents, and 2 1/2 serves of dairy equivalents. 'Discretionary choices', or 'sometimes foods', are suggested at a range of 0-3 serves per day.
|The old 2003 guidelines in plate form.|
Source: National Health & Medical Research Council.
So what are the changes from 2003 to 2013? Here are the main ones I have found.
The serving size of grain ('carbohydrate') products has been halved. Thus, whilst the recommended number of serves remains approximately the same (currently 6), the 2013 guide halves the recommended intake overall. One serve is now defined as 1 piece of bread instead of 2 pieces; 1/2 cup of rice instead of 1 cup; 1/2 cup porridge instead of 1 cup; and 2/3 cup flaked breakfast cereal instead of 1 cup. There is also a much greater emphasis on whole grains.
The guidelines are friendlier towards vegetarian and vegan diets. In 2003, example statements on vegetarianism included:
"Plant foods are important, protective foods. This, however, does not mean that plant foods alone will make your diet a healthy one."
"Not eating meat removes the major source of iron and zinc from daily meals."
"Dairy foods are the best source of calcium, which overcomes another of the nutritional shortcomings of a vegan diet."
(Reference: p. 13 of the 2003 Australian Dietary Guidelines found here.)
In 2013, we have the following:
"Alternatives to animal foods include nuts, seeds, legumes, beans and tofu. For all Australians, these foods increase dietary variety and can provide a valuable, affordable source of protein and other nutrients found in meats. These foods are also particularly impotant for those who follow vegetarian or vegan dietary patterns."
"Australians following a vegetarian diet can still meet nutrient requirements if energy needs are met and the appropriate number and variety of serves from the Five Food Groups are eaten throughout the day. For those eating a vegan diet, supplementation of B12 is recommended."
(Reference: p. 21 of the 2003 Australian Dietary Guidelines found here.)
In the brief summary of the guidelines, there is also the suggestion "Include some meat-free meals each week - include eggs, legumes such as beans and tofu, and nuts and seeds" (p. 21). Men are also told that they are probably eating too much red meat.
The guidelines are now less fat avoidant, focusing on avoiding saturated fats but promoting a moderate intake of unsaturated fats.
There is a mention of sustainable food choices for the environment, although this topic is not explored in any great detail and would easily be overlooked (and doesn't make the summary version of the guidelines, only the full document).
There is also mention of the environmental factors (including socioeconomic circumstance) that can impact food choices and availability.
The strength given to recommendations for increased vegetable intake, fruit intake, and wholegrain intake is greater. Specifically, the new guidelines focus in more detail on the evidence linking these foods to lower rates of cancer and heart disease.
|Source: Page 14 of the summary 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines booklet found here.|
In all, I quite like the new guidelines. They still allow up to 3 'discretionary' food choices per day, which equates to 75g chocolate. They accept that I may choose not to eat meat or eggs or dairy products. They have lower carbohydrate recommendations, but also suggest that we match our dietary intake to our personal requirements. Given that I exercise regularly and on some days intensely, my carbohydrate requirements will be higher on some days.
There are still things I don't like, or which I would prefer to be worded differently, but I am not an expert on public health nutrition and I respect the effort that has gone into these guidelines. The challenge now, I suspect, is on helping Australia adopt them.
If you are Australian, are you familiar with the new guidelines? What do you think of them?
If you aren't Australian, how do they compare to the guidelines where you live?