Fruit, vegetables still dominate as heartiest foods

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2013
Maria and Mike Raymundo
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

HEALTHY LIVING: Maria and Mike Raymundo are careful about what they buy to make sure son Zac, 8, is eating only good things. ‘‘We make sure there is plenty of fruit and vegetables in the house every week.’’

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Like its counterparts in Egypt, the food pyramid is ancient history - and so is the advice that you can get away with eating the occasional unhealthy treat.

The tempting pictures of cakes and sweets that once topped the "eat little" section of the pyramid are off the menu completely in the new "healthy heart" model introduced by the Heart Foundation yesterday.

Fruit and vegetables still dominate the "good" foods, with the foundation recommending that two-fifths of the supermarket trolley should be stocked with them.

But breads and cereals - which were essential building blocks of the old pyramid - have fallen from favour, and are now in the "eat some" category.

This was because the new model focused on heart health, rather than serving proportions, Heart Foundation national nutrition adviser Delvina Gorton said. Starchy, processed bread was fine in small amounts, but should not be a meal staple.

The idea of the new model was that, "if you compare your shopping trolley to the proportions of foods in the Healthy Heart, ideally they'd look similar", she said.

The foundation and the Ministry of Health together conducted research into Kiwis' eating habits in 2011 and found that takeaway food had become an entrenched staple of the modern diet. According to the ministry, almost a quarter of Kiwis are regarded as obese, and cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death.

Many of those deaths were preventable through diet and lifestyle changes, and the foundation sought to offer shoppers and cooks an up-to-date healthy eating guide, Ms Gorton said.

"We used to have that whole ‘meat and three veg' approach, which made planning a meal a lot simpler. We have lost all of those rules and now some people are a bit lost about how to put a meal together. Kiwis are continuously bombarded with nutrition messages, fad diets and ‘must-have' super-foods, and because of this overload, many people think healthy eating is expensive and unattainable."

LOTS OF HEALTH DECISIONS GOING ON AT SUPERMARKET

Biscuits and soft drinks are out, and pineapple and water are in at the Raymundo family's Island Bay home.

Water was free; sugar rotted teeth, so they steered clear of it, said dad Mike Raymundo.

A trip to the supermarket means thinking about what is best for his 8-year-old son, Zac, who eats plenty of his favourite fruit, pineapple, in place of biscuits or cereal bars.

Mum Maria works in the diabetes department at Wellington Hospital and has a good idea of what the family should be eating. "We make sure there is plenty of fruit and vegetables in the house every week."

Mr Raymundo said he wouldn't call himself "health-conscious" but the family limited "bad" foods such as fats, sugars and carbohydrates by checking what was in items such as cereal, and by buying high-fibre bread.

They and fellow Island Bay resident Lorraine Roberts agreed with the Heart Foundation's recommendation that two-fifths of the supermarket trolley be stocked with fruit and vegetables.

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Ms Roberts said she was always thinking about what was best for her health when shopping and, although the "naughty" foods caught her eye, she had become better at avoiding them.

"Sometimes the healthy options are more expensive but I try to stick to lots of fruit and vegetables."

Dean Jervis is in the middle of training for an 85km mountainbike race, so he said healthy food was at the top of his mind when he ventured to the supermarket.

"I think about it heaps because I'm in training.

"I have cut out sugars and steer away from carbs, and eat lots of protein and vegetables, and some fruit."

But two-fifths of his groceries consisting of fruit and vegetables seemed like a bit too much. "Perhaps I'm not as healthy as I think."

- Fairfax Media

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