A healthy plate

Health Plate 

‘Healthy eating’. What does it really mean? Based on the amount of conflicting dietary advice out there, understanding what and what not to eat can be highly confusing, not to mention frustrating! Celebrity chefs, food manufacturers, health professionals and food journalists are all eager and willing to impart their advice about eating, but who should we believe and just what does a healthy diet look like? For answers, we turn to Australia’s peak nutrition body, the Dietitians Association of Australia.

Bamboozled shoppers

According to spokesperson for the DAA Tania Ferraretto, it’s ‘really tough for us as university qualified nutrition professionals to communicate a clear, evidence-based message about what people should be eating because there are so many ‘experts’ out there. She says that it’s worth being cautious and using common sense when taking in any dietary advice. "I would advise people to look at the advice people provide – does it make sense? Does it sound practical, realistic and safe? Who is the person providing the advice? What qualifications do they have?"

The National Health and Medical Research Council currently provides a guide to healthy eating via a visual pie (or plate), which moves away from the trademark healthy food pyramid. Tania, who is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, says "the thinking around the plate instead of the pyramid is that it is easier to interpret and more reflective of eating’’.

A healthy plate

You could be forgiven for thinking the NHMRC’s visual guide to healthy eating is confusing. Although the image is based on expert advice and evidence, the guide is currently under review, not only to ensure the information is up-to-date, but also clear and practical.

Although differing tastes, backgrounds, beliefs and medical situations mean that no two diets are the same, when it comes to plating up your meal, there is some general advice to follow. According to Tania, your dinner plate should roughly contain: 

  • ¼ lean protein – meat, chicken, fish, eggs or vegetarian alternative
  • ¼ whole grain cereal or starchy vegetable – rice, pasta, bread, potato or sweet potato
  • ½ non-starchy vegetable – salad, green leafy veggies, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, capsicum, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.

The food world is a mega industry so it can be easy to get lost. If you’d like personalised advice about how to achieve healthy eating habits, consult your GP or a qualified dietitian (see http://daa.asn.au/for-the-public/find-an-apd/).