The new and “Improved” Food Pyramid!

Some of you may have noticed that the Department of Health have FINALLY updated the food pyramid! However there are still a few things that we should take note of.

You may notice that fruit and vegetables have been bumped up to first priority on the list, while this is definitely an improvement they have included orange juice in this list. Roughly about 60% of the Irish population consume orange juice with their breakfast during the week or on the weekend, including giving it to their children. While we are led to believe by marketing that orange juice is a good source of Vitamin C and a vital part of our diet this is not the case. In 500mls of orange juice (the average amount to what Irish people drink with their breakfast) there is the same amount of sugar in 500mls of Coke! Also in order to give orange juice bought in supermarkets a long shelf life they must super heat the juice to remove any bacteria that may be naturally present in the juice, doing this also destroys ALL of the Vitamin C. They then have to artificially add Vitamin C to the product and so you may as well be drinking a bottle of Coke while taking a Vitamin C supplement!

Keeping carbohydrates as our next on the list I think is a good move. While their are plenty of low-carb diets out there and claim to have amazing weight loss results, carbohydrates are, and will always be our main energy source. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in the body, glucose is then either used straight away by our body or stored as glycogen in our liver and muscles and when we exercise this glycogen is released to allow us to have an efficient workout. the ONLY reason why these “low-carb” diets seem to work so well is because they are also extremely low calorie, and while there may be fantastic before and after photos online, we don’t get to see their “after” photo 2 weeks later when they have pilled all the weight back up because it isn’t realistic in the long run.

Next on the list is milk, cheese and yogurt. However I do think that meat, fish and poultry should be next. If you compare the food pyramid to the “my plate” template set out by the United States of America, which shows a template of what your plate should look like at each meal, you will see protein takes up a good portion of the plate. Protein not only leaves us feeling fuller for longer and promotes maintaining a healthy weight by boosting your metabolism but is also vital for growth in children, maintaining muscle mass in the elderly and also regulating hormones in all age categories, and that’s before we even think about all the gains we want to make ;). While protein is a very important part of our diet, in recent years we have begun to over use protein. There are new protein products being released each week! from new flavour protein bars, high protein granola, protein powders, protein energy balls, protein cookies and many many more, again I blame marketing for this. We all know social media plays a huge role in all of our lives and each day we see a new “fitness model” eating or drinking a new protein product which in turn makes us buy them. Drinking a protein shake or eating a protein bar will NOT give you a six pack. A chicken fillet contains more protein that your average protein shake so why not have an extra chicken fillet at lunch or dinner, who doesn’t enjoy having extra food after all! This way you will also be getting all of your essential amino acids so that also means you won’t need to take all those BCAAs that taste awful, you will also be missing out on all those additives used to make the texture better, or make it taste like chocolate!

Fats, spreads and oils are at the top of the list of the foods we need daily. While certain fats are healthy such as olive oil, avocados, oily fish, nuts etc and are vital to remain healthy they also have a very high calorie content and therefore should be consumed in smaller amounts when compared to carbs and proteins. At the very top you will see the unnecessary foods needed to run a healthy body. The change to this section has been the most important, while on the previous pyramid it was recommended to “limit” these foods to 1-2 per day! They have finally changed it to show we shouldn’t be eating these foods but if we do we should be having less than 2 per week. As we all know sugar is NOT good for us and we should limit it where possible, the maximum amount of sugar per day a person should be having is 25-35g, which is 2 teaspoons of sugar! A bottle of Coke contains about 60g and a pint of orange juice contains about 65g!

Another good thing about this new pyramid is how they have added how many portions of each food group we should be having, take a look at it below and see how well your lifestyle lines up with the new recommendations.