What is a healthy diet- The AMA's 2018 Position Statement

Current Australian Dietary Guidelines emphasise the importance of consuming a variety of foods from each of the five food groups that is sufficient for individual energy needs. The five food groups include: vegetables; fruit; grains; lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, legumes/ beans; and milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives. Guidelines also recommend that people limit consumption of foods containing saturated fats, added salt, added sugar and alcohol. Consuming a diet that is consistent with the Guidelines will promote health, protect against disease and reduce the prevalence of nutrient deficiencies.6

There is a broad array of ‘diets’ and eating plans that make claims including weight loss, longevity and increased energy. Many of the recommendations contained in these programs are not supported by evidence. Some diets work, often because they involve energy restriction. Unfortunately many of these diets exclude entire food groups, are unnecessarily rigid, require use of expensive supplements and other products, are time consuming and as a consequence are extremely difficult to maintain in the longer term. Weight that has been lost through such regimes is quickly regained. It is preferable to make small, manageable changes in eating patterns that can be maintained in the longer term.

Vegetarian, or plant-based, diets are increasingly popular, not only due to the perceived health benefits, but also because people believe it is more sustainable and has less impact on the environment. The Australian Dietary Guidelines reference a range of measures that can address these concerns including reducing food wastage, avoiding overconsumption, and eating in a way that recognises the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables. These measures can be followed by those who continue to consume lean meat. Growing concerns about the health effects of processed meats are noted.7

There is ongoing concern about the health implications of a diet high in refined and added sugar.8 While some sugar is naturally occurring in foods such as fruit, vegetables and dairy, it is the addition of sugar to processed foods that is concerning.9

Sugary beverages provide individuals with large quantities of sugar and provide little or no satiety. Australians consume large quantities of soft drinks.10 Large container sizes of soft drinks are significantly cheaper than single serving sizes, which also contributes to overconsumption. Flavoured waters, sports drinks and fruit juices also contain significant quantities of added sugars. Energy drinks are popular among young people. These beverages also contain large quantities of caffeine and should not be readily available to those aged under 18 years. The AMA supports proposals to apply a tax or levy to sugar-sweetened beverages in Australia in order to reduce consumption.

People must be encouraged to drink water and it should be the default beverage option, including all instances where a beverage is provided with a meal. Consuming fluoridated tap water provides additional benefits, including the strengthening of tooth enamel, making teeth more resistant and reducing early decay.11

For full article and references visit: https://ama.com.au/system/tdf/documents/Nutrition-2018-AMA-position-statement.pdf?file=1&type=node&id=47557