The Healthy Eating Pyramid has changed! With so much information and so many people trying to throw advice our way, sometimes it’s hard to filter through the junk. I want to show you how easy it can be to make small changes to our kids diets to make sure they keep growing strong and healthy. Current figures show that the average Australian child gets 30% of his/her daily energy from ‘junk foods’. Nearly 30% of our nations kids and 63% of adults are obese or overweight. This is an endemic that is literally killing us and is something that is highly preventable.
Check out this pyramid published by Nutrition Australia (www.nutritionaustralia.com.au) – it looks different to the one we were taught at school.
Vegetables, legumes and fruit are our number one source of energy. They ideally make up 70% of our daily food requirements. Foods in this category are high in carbohydrates, fibre, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins. Try offering a variety of foods from this category – variety is the spice of life and will provide a wide range of goodness to help keep your child’s health in check. Older children, teens and adults should aim for 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of veg a day.
Grains form the second layer of the pyramid. Making small changes in this category can be subtle. If you eat white bread, try switching to multi-grain – you will straight away get an extra serve of grains a day. If you eat cereal, try porridge or a wheat based cereal. If you like to eat rice, give brown rice a go (or mix brown and white rice together). Remember, the less refined/processed, the better. Making these small changes will keep you and your kids full for longer and keep them over all healthier.
Dairy (and alternatives) and meat products should form an equal share of your diet. Dairy is vital in supplying your body with calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals. All the good stuff to make your kids grow strong bones and muscles. If you can, try a variety of meat products. Mix up red meat with white meat and fish. Eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes also form part of this category, so shake things up a bit. By including a variety in your diet, you will keep your body fueled for longer.
The top of the pyramid is healthy fats. Healthy fats are required by our body in moderation. They support heart health, brain development and brain function. Use unrefined olive oils and vegetable oils in cooking and spreads to increase our intake. Remember though, we get healthy fats from other parts of the pyramid in foods like avocado, fish, nuts and seeds.
The greatest change to the healthy eating pyramid is the removal of sugars and salts. When we were growing up, they formed the top of the pyramid. It is now no longer recommended that refined sugars form any part of your diet. Sugars are linked to an increased risk of weight gain, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In addition, sugar is considered ‘addictive’, which can have a flow on effect for children when they mature into adults.
We are all human though, and it is inevitable that we will consume these foods on occasion. We can limit it by steering clear of it in packaged foods and by reading nutritional labels. If the product looks processed, chances are it has sugar added to it – read the label and you will be amazed at how many of our favourites contain added sugar. If you have time, make your own sweet treats – that way you know what you’re putting in them.
Drink loads of water. Eight glasses a day is the recommended for the average adult – less for children. If its hot, you’re going to need more and if your sweating excessively, don’t forget those electrolytes.
Why not spruce up any of your meals with the addition of herbs and spices? Get the kids involved and grow their favourite herbs. It will bring your meals to life and reduce the need for jar additives like sauces.
There is no doubt about it, feeding our children is tough. Our days are incredibly busy – school, sports, activities, homework, housework, socialising, gardening and the list goes on. It is worth spending a bit of time working out which foods are best for our kids. Print out the pyramid and stick it on your fridge. Talk to your kids about it. Once you have the general idea, feeding your family will be easy – and the best thing, they may even eat less because they have the right foods going in and are feeling fuller for longer.