The Australian Dietary Guidelines: Everything You Need to Know

Nutrition // Jenn Madz // 15 May 2015

People around the world are plagued by diseases and conditions that can largely be prevented through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. The Australian Dietary Guidelines form the basis of the most up-to-date evidence about what foods (and how much of them) we should aim to eat each day to achieve a healthy diet. The government updated them two years ago after more than 55,000 scientific papers were reviewed and considered, so they’re extremely well researched and tested.

Why do we Need a Healthy Diet?

A healthy diet is important because it:

  • promotes good health and wellbeing
  • reduces the risk of diet-related conditions like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity
  • reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancers

The Australian Dietary Guidelines weren’t specifically developed for weight loss, but more with the aim of managing a healthy weight. And they don’t apply to people who need special dietary advice for a medical condition, or to the frail elderly or malnourished.

However, dietitians and other healthcare providers can give more personalised care to modify the guidelines for people who want or need to lose weight, in particular by carefully tweaking the number of recommended serves suitable for varying energy needs.

Our Diets Are Out of Balance

Eating is an everyday part of life that provides enjoyment and pleasure as well as fueling our energy and nutritional needs. Foods with the most nutrition are those from the five food groups:

  1. Fruit
  2. Vegetables
  3. Grains and cereals (whole grains mostly)
  4. Meat/seafood/poultry and alternatives like eggs, tofu, beans and lentils
  5. Dairy – milk, cheese and yoghurt (reduced-fat versions mostly)

The latest health survey data show that Australians are eating too many ‘discretionary’ foods and not enough foods from the five food groups. Discretionary foods are those packaged products that are high in energy, fat, salt and/or sugar. They provide little in the way of nutrition.

Soft drinks, muesli bars, alcohol, biscuits, cakes, slices and confectionery all fall into this group of discretionary foods – they’re nice to have but not necessary. Think of them as occasional treats rather than part of your regular daily intake.

The Guidelines are Better Than Fad Diets and Trends

So, the Australian Dietary Guidelines include all the food groups to make sure we get a wide variety of nutrients from different foods. In contrast, popular weight loss diets (often referred to as fad diets) typically exclude food groups as a way to help you cut back on calories. The Paleo diet, the Lemon Detox diet and the Atkins diet are just a few that cut out entire food groups, making them restrictive and hard to sustain long term.

By cutting out entire food groups you also run the risk of not meeting your nutritional needs. A good example is taking dairy out of your diet. If your current diet provides calcium predominantly from yoghurt, for example, going on a diet plan that prohibits you from eating it means you’d need to make sure the calcium you usually get from the yoghurt is replaced by other foods. This can be a hard task and should be done only under the guidance of an Accredited Practising Dietitian, particularly in groups of people for whom calcium needs are high, like adolescents, menopausal women and mothers-to-be.

Fad Diets are too Restrictive

There’s no denying that fad diets can work. But they all have one thing in common: restriction. Whether they take away one food group or more, they all end up with you eating less. This works in the short term because you’re determined and motivated and you stick to the diet to achieve your weight loss goal. But when you stop eating the way the diet tells you to, your bad habits come back into play and the weight starts to creep back on.

In some cases, cravings for the foods you’ve denied yourself on the diet come back stronger then ever and you find yourself bingeing on things like bread, pasta, chocolate and cake.

By following the Australian Dietary Guidelines you never have to deny yourself the foods you love, so there’s no sense of deprivation. Every food has a place in our lives – it’s just that some need to be eaten in smaller portions and less frequently than others.

Consistency is Key for Long-Term Weight Loss

The key to long-term weight loss is a consistent approach you can sustain for life. That’s what 12WBT is all about. There’s no silver bullet. You simply have to make consistently healthy choices most of the time, look at your portion sizes and balance it all out with physical activity.

12WBT isnt a short-term quick fix for weight issues. It aims to put Members back on track by teaching them healthy eating habits and providing them with practical food tips and tricks that will last a lifetime.

Our team of amazing dietitians have based our Meal Plans on the guidelines, at the same time modifying them for weight loss to achieve balanced nutrition on restricted calorie levels.

To do this we use the evidence of the Australian Dietary Guidelines to develop Meal Plans that use all the five food groups (excluding meat in our vegetarian Meal Plans) and provide appropriate portion sizes for your selected calorie level.

We also use the Australian Dietary Guidelines to educate Members about what healthy eating is and how to maintain nutritional balance for life.

A healthy approach to weight management will see you gain confidence in yourself and set you up for a life of looking good every single day – not just for a short period of time.

Looking for an approach to food that’s nutritionally balanced and will help you reach your weight loss goals? 12WBT has more than 900 dishes on its constantly expanding Recipe Index – sign up now! 

One Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ruth Reply

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for this nugget of reason. All these fad diets & their gurus are doing my head in. I’m so glad 12WBT is keepin’ it real. Not that I expected any less.

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