pyramid-simple

Minister of State for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD, today (6 December 2016) launched “Healthy Food for Life”, the new Healthy Eating Guidelines and Food Pyramid under the aegis of Healthy Ireland.

Healthy Food for Life provides a suite of national healthy eating guidelines for the general population. Their aim is to provide a balanced diet which is crucial in maintaining a healthy weight as well as encouraging positive lifestyles generally.

Speaking at the launch of the guidelines, the Minister said “This new suite of resources will provide very useful practical nutrition advice for the population, healthcare professionals and for those working in other sectors such as education, social protection and industry. As a country, many of us do not have a balanced diet for a variety of reasons and my first priority is to make this nutrition advice available for the population.”

Irish adult and childhood nutrition surveys over the past ten years show that eating habits are not consistent with optimal health. As a country, we are consuming too many foods and beverages that are high in sugar, fat and salt and not enough fruit and vegetables. This has contributed to the high levels of overweight and obesity in both adults and children which in turn increases the risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Minister Corcoran Kennedy added, “At the launch of the Obesity Policy, I announced a range of actions and “A Healthy Food for Life” is the first of these. Today’s launch provides a suite of resources for dieticians, health professionals and teachers. In the months ahead, we will provide additional training resources for healthy eating. We need to place a greater emphasis on prevention and a healthy diet is essential for better health and wellbeing”.

Overweight and obesity can be prevented by a balanced diet and being physically active. These new guidelines reflect best international evidence and national advice by organisations working in nutrition in Ireland. The focus is on prevention and showing how individuals can combine foods in a variety of flexible ways to achieve a balanced healthy diet to meet individual health needs, dietary preferences and cultural traditions. They describe how to build a healthy diet, for different age groups from 5 years of age, depending on gender.

The key messages are:

  • Limit high fat, sugar and salt foods from the top shelf of the Pyramid to no more than once or twice a week
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables, up to 7 servings a day. This is now the largest shelf of the Pyramid
  • Use the Pyramid as a guide for serving sizes. Portion size matters for counting calories
  • Guidance for losing weight and for individuals who are not physically active

In addition, the guidelines now include daily meal plans for children and adults as well as a range of information sheets on different parts of the food Pyramid.

Notes for Editors

What does the Food Pyramid look like?

The Food Pyramid is a visual representation of how different foods and drinks contribute towards a healthy balanced diet. The Food Pyramid allows individuals the flexibility to choose foods and drinks from each shelf depending on their food preferences. It organises foods and drinks into 5 main shelves, starting from the most important shelf on the bottom.

What’s on the shelves?

Shelf 1. Vegetables, Salad and Fruit (at least 5 to 7 servings a day). Base your meals on these and enjoy a variety of colours. More is better. Limit fruit juice to unsweetened, once a day.

Shelf 2. Wholemeal Cereals and Breads, Potatoes, Pasta and Rice (3–5 servings a day, up to 7 for teenage boys and men age 19–50). Wholemeal and wholegrain cereals are best. Enjoy at each meal.

Shelf 3. Milk, Yogurt and Cheese (3 servings a day and 5 from the age of 9 to 18) Choose reduced-fat or low-fat varieties. Choose low fat milk and yogurt more often than cheese. Enjoy cheese in small amounts.

Shelf 4. Meat, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Beans and Nuts (2 servings a day) Choose lean meat, poultry (without skin) and fish. Eat oily fish up to twice a week. Choose eggs, beans and nuts. Limit processed salty meats such as sausages, bacon and ham.

Shelf 5. Fats, Spreads and Oils (In very small amounts) Use as little as possible. Choose mono or polyunsaturated reduced fat or light spreads. Choose rapeseed, olive, canola, sunflower or corn oils. Limit mayonnaise, coleslaw and salad dressings as they also contain oil. Always cook with as little fat or oil as possible – grilling, oven-baking, steaming, boiling or stir-frying.

What about the 6th shelf?

The revised Food Pyramid separates the Top Shelf from the rest of the pyramid. The Top Shelf includes foods and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt. These are not needed for good health and should not be consumed every day. Very small amounts once or twice a week maximum is sufficient.

How do I use the Food Pyramid?

Use the Food Pyramid to plan your daily food choices. The Food Pyramid shows how much of what you eat overall should come from each shelf to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. The shape of the Food Pyramid shows the types of foods and drinks people need to eat most for healthy eating. It is divided into six shelves and each provides you with the range of nutrients and energy needed for good
health. Healthy eating is all about choosing the right amounts from each shelf.

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.

Further information is available on the Healthy Ireland website