health

The new food pyramid will probably make you feel bad.

There’s a new Healthy Eating Pyramid. And it spells bad news for paleo devotees…

Remember the Healthy Eating Pyramid? That iconic food triangle that Healthy Harold the giraffe laboriously taught us from the comfort of the primary school Life Education van?

Well, the pyramid has had a rejig to reflect Australia’s changing dietary patterns, such as the fact that less than seven per cent of people eat enough veggies now. (Eek.)

The new pyramid is based on the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines, and spells bad news for bread and cereals, which have now been officially downgraded from the “eat most” category.

Here are the main changes to the pyramid you should probably know about:

The old pyramid:

The Healthy Eating Pyramid was created in 1980, and it’s evolved a couple of times since then (most notably in 1999, when it last received its last major reno.)

The previous pyramids grouped food in three layers: The ‘eat most’ layer containing fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes; the ‘eat moderately’ layer containing dairy foods and meat; and a small top layer with added fats and sugars.

1999
Here’s what the pyramid looked like in 1999. Image via Nutrition Australia.

The new pyramid:

The new pyramid, however, separates each layer into the food pyramid five specific food groups, plus a category for “healthy fats” like extra virgin olive oil.

ADVERTISEMENT

The foundation layers now include vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains; together, they should make up around 70 percent of what we eat (that’s at least five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit a day, people).

The pyramid recommends eating moderate amounts of dairy and proteins, plus small amounts of healthy fats.

Adults should have at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables or legumes each day.

Nutrition Australia’s executive officer and accredited nutritionist Lucinda Hancock told Mamamia she hopes the pyramid will bring some clarity to Australians’ eating habits, at a time when diet fads continue to encourage Aussies to cut out grains, legumes and even dairy products.

“There’s no scientific evidence that supports us cutting out these food groups,” she says.

“From our perspective at Nutrition Australia, we support Australian dietary guidelines which is based on more than 50,000 pieces of research.

“We really hope the new pyramid can cut through all the misleading information that’s out there.”

“Our pyramid doesn’t have an allowance for added sugars- i’m talking about sugars from processed foods.”

As for the recent trend to ‘quit sugar‘? That’s a little more conflicated.

“Our pyramid doesn’t have an allowance for added sugars- I’m talking about sugars from processed foods,” Ms Hancock says.

But the healthy eating pyramid does endorse the consumption of natural sugars in fruit.

“Natural sugars are fine and part of a healthy diet. (Just avoid) anything from having any type of processed foods, really,” she explains.

Foods with sneaky added sugar can include muesli bars, sports drinks and yoghurts, Ms Hancock says.

“Often low fat yoghurts, when they’ve reduced the fat they add in the sugar to.”

The pyramid’s main messages remain similar to the one Healthy Harold taught you back in the ’90s.

Overall, though, while there have been a few changes, the pyramid’s main messages remain similar to the one Healthy Harold taught you back in the ’90s: Enjoy a variety of foods, choose mostly plant-based foods, limit saturated fats, sugar and salt, and choose water as your main drink.

And do not — repeat, do not — ditch entire food groups without consulting an actual expert. Got it?

What do you think of the new pyramid? Do any of the changes surprise you?

Related content:

Five reasons nutritionists hate Pete Evans.

Clean eating isn’t about health anymore. It’s about shame.

Portia de Rossi talks about the day she developed an eating disorder. She was 12.

00:00 / ???