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    Dietary guidelines make case for vegies 

    Monday this week saw the release of the new and updated Australian Dietary Guidelines from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

    If you happen to work in the health or food sector, you’ll know well the significance of a document such as this. For the uninitiated, the guidelines aim to give anyone from health professionals and policy makers to your average Aussie the information to make good decisions about what to eat and when to eat it.

    For us here at Meat Free Mondays, the new guidelines are an exciting document because they give the best available scientific knowledge to support the message we’re putting out there: that we need to change the way we eat and we need to do it with balance in mind.

    With Australia suffering the debilitating effects of obesity and type 2 diabetes, and with the total cost of poor nutrition likely to greatly exceed $8 billion each year*, clearly all is not well when it comes to our national health.

    So what are some of the guideline’s take-home messages?

    • We need to eat vegetables – And lots them. Vegetables, including beans and legumes, are in fact the only food group the guidelines advocate eating in ‘plenty’. That’s special food status.
    • We need to eat with diversity – Variety is key to eating well, with nutrient-rich foods in all shapes and colours contributing to good health.
    • We need to eat wholefoods – People don’t eat single nutrients, they eat whole foods. By concentrating on which foods are good to eat rather than obsessing about individual nutrients, we make it easier to build good habits into our everyday lifestyle.

    Meat Free Monday Australia’s ambassador and nutritionist, Dr Rosemary Stanton sat on the dietary guidelines working committee. A long time advocate for changing our attitude to vegetables, Dr Stanton advocates the healthfulness of plant-based foods in the Australian diet and the benefits of participating in Meat Free Mondays in particular.

    The opportunity that Mondays provide to try something new is something we continuously hear about within the Meat Free Mondays community. For many supporters, Mondays have easily become a lively challenge, an excuse almost, to expand their food horizons and figure out the answers to niggling questions: What on earth are those grains I see in the health food store or supermarket aisle? What do those weird coloured vegetables taste like? How do I really pronounce ‘quinoa’?**

    They’re also an opportunity to stock up on those vegetables that might be sidelined later on in the week. In the wise words of Professor Warwick Anderson, the chief executive officer at the National Health and Medical Research Council, ‘we can eat as many leafy vegetables as we like without risk of eating too many kilojoules’.

    And at the end of the day, if it’s your palette that leads the way rather than your health consciousness, you’re far from lost. As River Cottage host and UK vegie eating advocate Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall puts it so nicely, “the object of the exercise is to persuade you to eat more vegetables. Many more vegetables. And the hope is to do so not by shouting from a soapbox, but through sheer temptation.”

    Take a read of the guidelines yourself here.

    Photo credit: fresh and foodie

    * Access Economics. The growing cost of obesity in 2008: three years on. Canberra: Diabetes Australia, Access Economics, 2008; National Health and Medical Research Council (2013) Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.

    ** For reference, just think ‘keen-wa’.

    Meat Free Mondays