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Pouring Oil On Food No Solution

Pouring Oil On Food No Solution To Kiwi Diet Dietitians Speak Out On Harvard Pyramid

Dietitians around the country have been inundated with calls regarding the Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid currently being promoted by a research group from Boston, USA. The dominance of oil and minimal space given to meat, white bread, rice and pasta in the pyramid questions the dietary guidelines of the 1990s, and has alarmed both teachers of nutrition and the public alike.

Carole Gibb, executive officer of The New Zealand Dietetic Association (NZDA) says the Harvard Pyramid does not address the basic problems of the New Zealand diet. “It offers just one example of how to change to a healthier dietary pattern. The approach that it advocates may be expensive and not necessarily the most practical approach for many New Zealanders. Making better choices of the foods traditionally included in the New Zealand diet such as meat, milk products and grains, and increasing vegetable and fruit consumption, are key steps to improved health.”

“The NZDA is concerned that media coverage of the Harvard Pyramid is being interpreted as being to eat “less” bread and potato and “more” fat as oil. In fact the research behind the pyramid suggests a change of emphasis. Traditionally food groups such as carbohydrates and fats have been treated as one whole category when recommending proportions in a healthy diet. However the Harvard Pyramid breaks the food groups down into which foods in each group we should eat more of and which we should eat more sparingly. For example the research suggests that we replace white bread, rice and pasta with whole grain products, and replace butter and cream and all fats found in pre-prepared foods such as biscuits, cakes, ‘health’ and confectionery bars, fast foods, fried foods, pastry and ice cream with oil.”

“The NZDA agrees that New Zealanders need to change the type of cooking and spreading fats they use for preparing foods, but we don’t want to increase our overall fat intake, oil is 99% fat,” she warns. “We need to eat less fried and roast potato, pastries, crackers, cakes, and muffins, and other high fat or high sugar foods and drinks, before we cut down on white bread, steamed potato or white rice or pasta.”

“The changing cultural diversity of our population reflects a variety of dietary patterns. Dietitians choose from the healthiest of these for examples of how to prepare appetising and nourishing meals and snacks”. Janice Bremer, NZDA, says “In practical terms the Harvard Pyramid tells us to eat whole grains with oil or oil spreads at most meals, add plenty of fruit and vegetables but not potato, and top this with some fish, skinned chicken, dried peas or beans, nuts or seeds or low fat milk product, but only rarely eat meat, white bread, rice, or pasta. The Harvard Pyramid offers no position on the many pre-prepared foods that form a large part of the diets of New Zealanders. Similarly strict dietary patterns have been tested in people with heart disease but not in the general population.”

She adds that “When educating the general population, dietitians use a gradual change approach rather than a dramatic attack on usual food choices. Furthermore, the Harvard hypotheses for minimising meat intake and promoting vitamin and calcium supplements and alcohol for healthy people, are not adequately supported by research”.

“Dietitians are not endorsing the Harvard Pyramid as it has been presented to the healthy population of New Zealand”, says Mary McNab, president of NZDA, “but we support many of the concepts it raises. We recommend high intakes of fruit and vegetables; more whole grain breads and cereals and fewer white flour and low fibre grain products; more fish and dried peas and beans in place of fatty and processed meats; low fat milk products in place of full-fat products and use of oil, table margarines and nuts and seeds in place of butter, meat fat, hard plant fats and frying fats. This is how we update the traditional food pyramid”.

The NZDA is a national association of the dietetic profession currently representing over 500 dietitians and associated professionals practising in diverse areas of dietetics in New Zealand. The NZDA uses scientific evidence to promote dietary habits that optimise nutritional health.

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