Australia Dietary Guidelines Released

 

Holly Harris APD

 

The highly anticipated revised Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) finally surfaced on Tuesday 18th February, one decade after the release of the previous ADG. Dietitians and nutritionists nationwide are now equipped with a strong, evidence-based tool to confidently guide the dietary patterns of healthy Australians, to protect against chronic disease. Recommendations were developed using rigorous National Health and Medical Research Centre review processes, with around 55,000 scientific publications reviewed by an expert committee. It is essential that all dietitians familiarise themselves with the five guidelines and relevant appendices to implement the latest and accurate evidence into everyday practice.

 

With the additional revision of the Infant Feeding Guidelines, the ADG now include infants from 6 months to adults over 70 years of age. However, the ADG are targeted for relatively healthy groups, and are inappropriate to apply to those with serious medical conditions or for the frail elderly.

 

Overview of the ADG

 

The ADG emphasise whole foods, as opposed to specific nutrients. Professor Amanda Lee, the chair of the working committee, states that the five guidelines reflect ‘flexible dietary patterns and translate the body of evidence into realistic, practical recommendations’. ‘These guidelines can be used with confidence to cut through the misinformation about food, nutrition and health issues that is rife in our community’, says Professor Lee.

 

What has changed? Working committee member Professor Sandra Capra comments that ‘While the basic messages may have remained, greater importance is given to legumes [and] nuts, with specific advice about added sugars and fats, with more detailed advice about various meats based on recent evidence’.

 

The ADG provide positive recommendations to Australians, which reflects clear messages on the ‘how’ of achieving optimal nutrition. Briefly, evidence has been strengthened for the role of fruit, non-starchy vegetables, wholegrain cereals and milk consumption in the prevention of some chronic diseases.

 

The message of enjoying a ‘wide variety of nutritious from the Five Food Groups’ continues with the following specific considerations:

·       Grain (cereal) foods have reduced in serve size compared to the previous guidelines (ie. one slice of bread = one serve vs. the previous two slices of bread = one serve) and encouragement has been given to consume wholegrain and high fibre cereals.

·       Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives are recommended in their reduced fat varieties.

·       Fruit is encouraged generally in whole form or packaged in natural juices and only occasionally consume dried fruit and juice

·       Vegetables and legumes/ beans have been encouraged in differing colours and types (Brassica/ cruciferous, orange, raw leafy, starchy vegetables and other vegetables such as red and yellow vegetables)

·       Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans are encouraged while high processed meats and sausages included in the ‘discretionary’ food group.

Kilojoules correlating to each ‘serve’ is detailed in each food group.

 

Although not quite landing on the central ‘plate’ of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, unsaturated spreads and oils are included in the ADG as the ‘sixth’ food group. The recommended average daily number of serves includes an allowance for these high quality fats, depending on individual needs. ‘Extra foods’ are now expressed as ‘discretionary choices’, with sugar sweetened beverages and other nutrient poor, energy dense foods, falling far from the central food plate. More active or taller individuals may choose some additional serves from the Five Food Groups, unsaturated spreads and oils or discretionary choices. 

 

Breast feeding remains to be encouraged, supported and promoted. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended to the age of six months.

 

Sandra Capra adds: ‘This is also a set of guidelines which recognise the impact of the food supply on sustainability of that supply and the need to be aware of how food choices impact the environment’.

 

Resources (summaries, posters, brochures), interactive tools and games to promote the revised Australian Dietary Guidelines have now been posted at www.eatforhealth.gov.au.