NZ’s latest nutritional guidelines under the microscope (the important bits)
Last year, the Ministry of Health (the governmental body responsible for looking after our health and well-being), released an updated set of guidelines for adult New Zealanders. These ‘Eating and Activity guidelines’, replace the previously known ‘Food and nutrition guidelines’. The amended guidelines are designed to better reflect the current international evidence for nutrition and physical activity. It is important to note the evidence underpinning the statements comes from international systematic reviews that support current recommendations from the World Health Organization and World Cancer Research Fund, dietary guidelines for New Zealand and Australia, the United States of America (USA) and Nordic nations and physical activity guidelines
for New Zealand and Australian adults.
The revamped guidelines emphasise some interesting but very important points, explained below.
• Most New Zealand adults do not eat enough fibre and generally choose more refined grain foods.
For example, most of the bread consumed in New Zealand is either white or ‘light-grain’ bread while ‘heavy-grain’ breads are the closest to whole grain. This statement highlights how even though we
think we are doing the right thing by choosing a ‘grain’ bread – some light grain breads are little better than white!
• Experts are now encouraging adults to consume more legumes (lentils, chickpeas and beans), nuts, seeds, and seafood rather than relying on chicken and red meat so much for our main sources of protein. Not only are legumes low cost, they are extremely filling and relatively low in calories due to their high fibre content. Many recipes can be adapted to include more legumes in place or in partial replacement of meat.
• Including fat in the diet is less about the amount eaten and more about the quality or type used – the focus here is on replacing saturated fat sources with unsaturated fat sources for their heart protective benefits. For example, choosing fish instead of red meat twice per week will replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat, as will snacking on nuts rather than that scone or slice from the shop downstairs.
• New advice is to choose mostly ‘whole’ and less processed foods. I think we know this one. This is one message advocated by ‘paleo’ followers and to their credit – it’s a good one. Basing your daily intake on food that comes from a tree, the ground or the sea is an acceptable general rule of thumb.
• Less sitting – according to new research prolonged periods of sitting should be broken up every 2.5 hours – growing evidence suggests sitting for long periods is associated with weight gain and a higher risk of poor general health and type 2 diabetes. This means taking the stairs, walking the dog (more) and offering to do the coffee round!
• Higher-intensity activities are associated with improvements in fitness levels, greater energy expenditure and improved aerobic/anaerobic capacity. This is a major – speak to your gym instructor or personal trainer for a run down on this wee gem!
• The importance of muscle-strengthening activities is highlighted to help reduce the risk of injury as well as keeping the body strong and agile for doing everyday activities.
While these guidelines may seem ‘run of the mill’, they are the result of many years of research, expert opinion and feasibility for the majority of adult New Zealanders. They are designed to be followed by all New Zealanders, regardless of income level or social status. I hear a lot in social media and general society what foods should be cut out in order to follow a healthy eating regimen. I urge you to be weary of such claims and instead take a look at what else you can include rather than cut out, starting with the food and activity recommendations outlined here.
For more information, see http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/eating-and-activity-guidelines-new-zealand-adults