Joanna is a registered nutritionist and dietician with a PhD in nutritional science from the University of Sydney. She is the resident nutrition expert for Channel 9’s Today Show, contributor to magazines including Life Etc and Slimming & Health and author of numerous books including Inner Health Outer Beauty, Star Foods and the Low GI Diet.
The traditional healthy eating pyramid puts carbohydrate-rich grain foods, such as bread, rice and pasta, along with vegetables and fruit, at the base to encourage us towards a low-fat, high carbohydrate diet. Many nutrition experts including myself now question this approach, as clearly it is not working in curbing overweight and obesity rates. There is a strong argument that humankind was never designed to eat such a high carbohydrate diet, but making it worse is our tendency to eat all the wrong carbs. Read more on carbs here. Such a typical modern diet tends to be energy-dense and nutrient poor, leading to weight gain and ill health.
This revamped food pyramid is designed to reverse this. It will guide you towards a diet that gives you more bang for your bite, a diet that is nutrient-dense but energy saving. It is a back to nature approach reflecting the way we were designed to eat, and factors in the latest nutrition research.
Vegetables and fruit form the base. For very few kilojoules they provide an incredible wealth of essential nutrients. In essence this means you can afford to eat a lot more of these foods than any other.
On the second level you’ll find a flexible line between the more energy dense protein-rich and carb-rich foods. So long as you eat the minimum from each group, you can have more protein and less carbohydrate, or vice versa. How much of each you choose to eat will depend largely on factors such as your food preferences, exercise levels and body type. Read more on proteins here.
Near the top of the pyramid lie the fat-rich foods. Being energy dense the volume we eat needs to be less, but because they contain many essential nutrients not found in other foods they must be included in the daily diet. The days of buying everything ‘low fat’ and ‘fat free’ are thankfully gone! It’s all about quality. Read more on good fats here.
And finally at the tip of the pyramid are the treats. What constitutes as treats are the foods and drink that really give you pleasure but you feel you shouldn’t have. Chocolate, lollies, a burger, G and T, or whatever else you feel you couldn’t live without. And neither should you have to. As long as you remember the positioning of treats in the food pyramid and eat them in that proportion so that the bulk of your diet is packed full of more nutritious foods, it really doesn’t matter much what makes up this small space.
Why do we need to eat from each of these food groups? Well it’s quite simply this—each food group provides a different set of nutrients and has a special purpose. Without your share of each, your body cannot perform at its best and sooner or later you’ll feel the effect. Perhaps you don’t eat enough vegetables and fruit, and suffer from more colds and flu than you need to, or you’ve cut out carbs to try and lose weight – and find yourself constipated and unable to concentrate. You may have chosen to cut out meat, can’t cook fish and don’t understand tofu – but you always feel tired, your spirits are low and you never feel fully sated after meals. Or you may be battling with your weight on a low fat diet and have dry skin, a foul temper and an unbearable craving for a family block of chocolate.
The solution is to eat more different foods, not less. Broaden your palate to include foods from each of our food groups, in the proportions illustrated in the pyramid.
Edited by Dr Joanna McMillan Price from her book Star Foods with The Food Coach Judy Davie