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The new food pyramid: More fruit and veg, fewer carbohydrates (and no white bread)

Fruit and vegetables now comprise the largest shelf on the food pyramid.

Food pyramid The new Food Pyramid released by the Department of Health. Source: Department of Health

THE DEPARTMENT OF Health has announced new healthy eating guidelines and a new food pyramid, which stresses eating fruit and vegetables over carbohydrates like bread.

The guidelines are aimed at providing advice on a balanced diet to the general public, and advise limiting high fat, sugar and salty foods to no more than once or twice a week.

The combined recommendation for fruit and vegetables has been increased to between five and seven servings per day.

Fruit and vegetables now comprise the largest shelf on the food pyramid.

Conversely the range of servings for carbohydrates has been reduced to between three and five a day for everyone – except “active males”.

The amount of wholemeal cereals and breads, potatoes, pasta and rice has been reduced – and bakers are furious that white bread is not present in the pyramid.

The new food pyramid brings Irish advice closer to the Harvard Food Pyramid, which pioneered the original idea.

Harvard pyramid The Harvard Food Pyramid. Source: Harvard University.

Suite (not sweets)

Launching the new healthy food guidelines, Minister of State for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy today said:

“This new suite of resources will provide very useful practical nutrition advice for the population, healthcare professionals and for those working in other sectors such as education, social protection and industry.

As a country, many of us do not have a balanced diet for a variety of reasons and my first priority is to make this nutrition advice available for the population.

The Department of Health said that Irish adult and childhood nutrition surveys over the past 10 years show that eating habits are not consistent with optimal health, with too much consumption of foods high in sugar, fat and salt.

Ireland has the highest average body mass index in the EU, and a quarter of our population is technically obese. Over half of us are overweight, meanwhile.

The government has announced a sugar tax, but it will not come into effect until 2018.

Simple pyramid A simple version of the new food pyramid. Source: Department of Health

White bread

The Irish Bakers Association today denounced efforts to do down the humble white sliced pan, however.

“All too often the negative comments that are being made about bread by so-called “experts” are done without any basis in fact,” spokeswoman Oonagh Monahan said.

The truth is slowly coming out and these people are being challenged by scientific evidence that proves the contrary

She cited new research commissioned by the IBBA and carried out by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance, which finds a direct correlation between those preschool children that ate bread and increased growth and development within that group.

Yet the full report, seen by TheJournal.ie, found that wholemeal bread contributed a bigger percentage of nutrients than white bread.

The report also found a “small significant negative correlation” between the amount of white bread consumed and the daily intake of sugar and fibre.

It also found a “weak significant positive correlation between white bread (g/d) consumed and mean body weight (kg)”.

Some 57% of the population eat white bread and 72% eat wholemeal bread, the report found.

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy Minister for State Marcella Corcoran Kennedy. Source: Rollingnews.ie

Physically active

The Government’s new healthy eating guidelines also include advice on portion sizes, plus daily meal plans for children (including for five and 10-year-olds) and adults as well as a range of information sheets on different parts of the food pyramid.

“Overweight and obesity can be prevented by a balanced diet and being physically active,” Minister Corcoran Kennedy added.

“These new guidelines reflect best international evidence and national advice by organisations working in nutrition in Ireland.

The focus is on prevention and showing how individuals can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve a balanced healthy diet to meet individual health needs, dietary preferences and cultural traditions.

“They describe how to build a healthy diet, for different age groups from five years of age, depending on gender.”

This article was originally published on 6 December 2016

Read: FactCheck: Is Ireland really one of the world’s most obese countries?

Read: A snapshot of Irish health: Over half of us are overweight (and a lot of us binge drink)

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