A new food pyramid has been launched, which highlights the importance of eating more fruit and vegetables.
According to the Department of Health, research over the last decade has shown that eating habits in Ireland ‘are not consistent with optimal health’. In an effort to tackle this, it has launched ‘Healthy Food for Life’ – an updated food pyramid and new healthy eating guidelines.
Nutrition surveys carried out over the last 10 years have shown that Irish people are increasingly consuming food and drinks that are high in fat, sugar and salt. At the same time, they are not eating enough fruit and vegetables.
These dietary habits have contributed to high levels of overweight and obesity here, which in turn can increase the risk of a number of chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
The food pyramid has not been updated for several years and the current one is aimed at everyone over the age of five years. There are six shelves on the pyramid, however the sixth (top) shelf is separate from the rest of the pyramid. It includes foods high in fat, sugar and salt.
The last pyramid recommended that people should consume no more than one portion of these foods per day. However, this updated pyramid emphasises that these foods are not needed for good health and should therefore not be consumed every day. Very small amounts once or twice a week should be the maximum amount consumed.
Another big change is that fruit and vegetables have now moved to the bottom shelf, which means these are the foods that people should be consuming the most of on a daily basis. This was previously the home of carbohydrates, which has now move to the second-last shelf.
The department said that people should use the food pyramid ‘to plan daily food choices’.
“Following the food pyramid doesn’t mean that you need to achieve balance with every meal, but aim to get the balance right over the day and over the week. Small changes can make a big difference,