The old food pyramid has been replaced by the healthy heart visual food guide.
This new healthy eating guide shows heart-healthy amounts of foods to eat during your day. Put the Healthy Heart on your fridge, use it as a guide at the supermarket, or use it for help with the meals you make during your day.
What does the Healthy Heart show?
The new Healthy Heart has replaced the old food pyramid. It is centred around heart-healthy eating and focused on caring for your heart.
- The balance of recommended foods to eat (e.g. vegetables and fruits),
- foods that can be swapped for one another within food groups (e.g. breads and cereals),
- the kinds of foods to eat to be healthy.
Is it different from the old food pyramid?
The Healthy Heart displays each food group in its proportional volume – instead of showing specific servings (like in the old food pyramid). In other words, when you look at the food in your shopping cart, or think about what you ate during your day, your foods should be in proportions similar to those in the 'Healthy Heart'.
The old food pyramid has been turned upside down with the most healthy foods up the top – vegetables and fruit. They are the largest section on the 'Healthy Heart' – meaning we should eat these foods the most.
However, not all vegetables are up the top – starchy vegetables like kumara, potato, corn, yams, and green banana are down with other starchy foods such as cereals, breads, and grains. This is because in your meal, these foods can be traded for each other (however this is up for debate).
The starchy food group (grains, cereals, breads, starchy vegetables) are followed by the meats food group, after this comes dairy foods and last but not least, there's the healthy nuts and oils, since consuming healthy kinds of fat is crucial to a Healthy Heart.
You can use the Healthy Heart to:
- Discover some little steps to eat a bit healthier. You could eat one more fruit or vegetable per day, or one less chocolate bar.
- During your food shop the amount of food in your shopping cart should be similar in proportion to the Healthy Heart, e.g. nearly half of your trolley should be taken up by vegetables and fruit.
- When you're planning your daily meals – have you eaten foods from each food group in about the same amount as the 'Healthy Heart'? If you laid everything you ate during your day out on a table, would it look like the Healthy Heart?
- Place the Healthy Heart on the fridge as a helpful eating guide, to help you choose what foods are healthy. What section of the 'Healthy Heart' does each food fit into?
- When you're preparing your meal you can use the Healthy Heart as a guide for what foods in each food group can be traded for each other. For example, you wouldn’t put bread on the side of a rice dish, you would choose one or the other, otherwise you would be doubling up on starchy foods.
Healthy heart recommendations
- Eat most – of course, fruit and vegetables reign, these should be eaten more than other foods. However, surprisingly, starchy vegetables such as potatoes and kumara have been left out from this group as they have more carbohydrates and are a bit different to the other fruits and vegetables. It is actually very important to eat starchy vegetables as these foods are low in calories and have extra fibre and anti-oxidants that healthy hearts need.
- Eat some – it is suggested that you eat some cereals, breads, and starchy vegetables. This food group being rated second on the list is debatable, since eating a lot of these foods, (particularly if they're processed or refined), will contribute to weight gain and heart disease. But everyone is different, so common sense is needed here – if you have diabetes, are overweight, or in danger of developing heart disease, then its a good idea to only eat a little bit of these foods – if you’re unsure, it’s recommended you see a dietitian or chat with your GP.
- Meat, chicken, fish, legumes and eggs – these foods are rich in protein, fat-soluble vitamins and crucial minerals. As a bonus, the protein makes you feel full so you won’t eat as much. However, it could be debated that this food group should be promoted to runner up (‘eat some’), since meat, fish and chicken trigger a lower insulin reaction than carbs (carbohydrates) that could help to manage blood sugar levels and cut down on a range of risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For now, its suggested meat be a side dish instead of being your main meal.
- Milk and dairy – in a similar place to where it was on the old food pyramid. Milk contains quality protein and is a good source of calcium.
- Oils and nuts – a casual recommendation for a food group that may have more health advantages than people are aware of. This guide doesn't explain the specific oils or fats that should be consumed. Some background reading to discover more about this food group could be useful. The Heart Foundation recommends eating 3–4 small handfuls of nuts/seeds each week, which translates to 15gms a day (1 tablespoon peanut butter a day). Read more about nuts, seeds and heart health.
- Dead last – reducing junk food (take-aways, foods or drinks with a lot of sugar, salt or saturated and trans fats). However, beware as many junk foods go unnoticed, avoiding the ‘junk food label’, such as muesli bars (often very high in sugar).
Overall, this is an improvement from the old food pyramid, but it is only a guide, it's recommended that you do your own research to find out what diet works best for you. If you're ever unsure, it’s recommended you see a dietitian or chat with your GP.
The advice on eating for a healthy heart from the Heart Foundation is as follows:
- eating more vegetables and fruit
- swapping from refined cereals and grains to whole grains
- choosing reduced-fat varieties of dairy products
- eating healthy fats sourced from nuts, seeds, plant oils (other than coconut and palm), avocado, and oily fish in place of animal fats
- focusing on reducing unprocessed red meat to <350g/week (cooked) spread across 3 meals per week (with an individual portion size of 100g cooked red meat)
- swapping some red meat meals for plant proteins such as soy, legumes and nuts
- limiting or avoiding processed red meat
- reducing highly processed and refined foods such as junk food, takeaways, deep-fried foods, pastries, pies, sweet bakery items, lollies, processed snack foods and sugary drinks.
Updated version of the Healthy Heart Food Guide Heart Foundation of NZ
Dave Shaw – Unraveling new healthy eating guide (the death of the food pyramid) NZ Herald
About the 'Healthy Heart' visual food guide Heart Foundation of NZ
Nuts, seeds and heart health Heart Foundation, NZ