Is The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating just another diet?

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Good question. The answer is NO! The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) is a guide as the title suggests. It is general in nature and focuses on dietary patterns rather than recommending what to eat. I describe the AGHE as the ‘what’ of nutrition.

What is the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating?

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (2013) or the ‘what’ of nutrition, is aimed at all healthy Australians including those with common lifestyle related conditions and it’s based on current scientific evidence. It was developed from expert opinion in partnership between the Australia Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council and Department of Health.

The recommendations provide advice on the kinds of foods and their amounts that we need to eat to:

  • “promote health and well-being
  • reduce the risk of diet-related conditions, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity
  • reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancers
  • promote normal growth in infants and children”

Source: National Health and Medical Research Council.

The guiding principles:

There are five principal recommendations featured in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

  1. “To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious foods and drinks to meet your energy needs.
  2. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the 5 food groups everyday.
  3. Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugar and alcohol.
  4. Encourage, support and promote breastfeeding.
  5. Care for your food; prepare and store it safely.”

Source: National Health and Medical Research Council.

How do I make healthy food choices?

Focusing on the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of nutrition can help you to make healthy food choices. There are a range of healthy eating and lifestyle behaviours we can do everyday to help us improve/maintain our health. Eating intuitively (the ‘how’) and bringing awareness to your dietary and lifestyle behaviours is the key to good nutrition.

I like to teach intuitive eating by using Dr Rick Kausman’s (author of ifnotdietingthenwhat?) puzzle piece analogy.  This analogy highlights there are important skills we often need to re-learn (especially for ex-dieters) or focus on and practise everyday to look after our health. Intuitive eating is the underlying force or skill that helps us to achieve good health.

There are many puzzle pieces we need for health as seen below:

Why do we need dietary guidelines?

Unfortunately, for Australians, diet-related chronic diseases are currently a major cause of death and disability. We need such guidelines to highlight the importance of good nutrition for health.

An Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) can help you to work out what puzzle pieces you need to focus on to improve your health. As mentioned above, the AGHE is aimed at the healthy Australian population. If you have chronic health conditions or are frail aged you should seek personalised advice from your APD.

For more information about the AGHE and how they were developed visit https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au

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What ‘puzzle pieces’ are important for your health? Do you have anymore to add to the list?

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