Sugar and a healthy diet
Across all life stages it is important to eat well and keep active. Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle are closely associated with ill-health.
In both Australia and New Zealand, programs have been developed to promote and encourage good health and wellbeing through appropriate diet and lifestyle choices. These come in the form of dietary recommendations or guidelines. Dietary recommendations are shown to be effective in guiding people around the types of foods they should consume and the foods they should avoid. Typically, recommendations are aimed at otherwise healthy people and are broad statements, reflecting the varying individual requirements of people and the variety of eating patterns which can still meet nutritional needs.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines
To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs.
Children and adolescents should eat sufficient nutritious foods to grow and develop normally. They should be physically active every day and their growth should be checked regularly.
Older people should eat nutritious foods and keep physically active to help maintain muscle strength and a healthy weight.
Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five groups every day:
And drink plenty of water.
Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol
Encourage, support and promote breastfeeding
Care for your food; prepare and store it safely
New Zealand Eating and Activity Guidelines (eating statements)
* Legumes include lentils, split peas, chickpeas and cooked dried beans (eg, kidney beans, baked beans).
Where does sugar fit?
To reflect how we eat, guidelines focus on food groups rather than single nutrients. Each food group is characterised by the main macro and micronutrients that it contributes to the diet.
The guidelines suggest to limit the consumption of, or, not add sugar to foods. Foods high in total energy, added sugar, salt and fat with little other nutrition are often classed as 'discretionary foods' or 'extras' foods. These are treats such as chocolate, sweets, hamburgers or ice-cream. They are not necessarily required to meet nutritional needs, but can add enjoyment to eating when consumed responsibly.
When sugar is consumed with otherwise nutritious foods, such as flavoured yoghurts or some breakfast cereals then these items contribute to a persons core food intake. This reflects the contribution to nutrition and mineral intake the overall food has. It also highlights the ability to consume sugar in moderation without any adverse health effects.
Overall, it is about whole food choices and patterns of eating. If a diet is made of nutrient poor discretionary, or extra, foods than it is likely that nutritional requirements are not being met. However, if a diet which still contains a moderate amount of sugar, is based around the core foods, then it is more than likely that all nutritional needs are being fulfilled.