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Why Dietary Patterns Matter

With so many fad diets and everyone promoting themselves as a health guru, it can be really confusing to know exactly what you should be eating of optimum health. However, taking it back to basics is a great way to start improving your health and continuing to support a healthy lifestyle. Examining what you normally eat or your “dietary pattern” is more important than looking at a single meal as we already know exercising or eating a vegetable once every so often doesn’t necessarily make you healthy.

What is a dietary pattern?

The British Medical Journal defines a dietary pattern as “the quantities, proportions, variety, or combination of different foods and drinks in diets, and the frequency with which they are habitually consumed”. In simplistic terms, a dietary pattern is what you normally eat and drink including serving sizes and variations of meals through a day, a week or even a year.

What foods should we include in our dietary pattern?

The Australia Dietary Guidelines (ADG) are designed to be a road map of a healthy eating pattern for the average Australian. These guidelines recommend eating an abundance and wide variety of fruits and vegetables, a moderate amount of lean meats and alternatives (e.g. legumes, nuts, tofu) , breads and cereals, and dairy and alternatives (e.g. calcium fortified soy milk), whilst limiting the intake of discretionary foods and foods high in saturated fats or added sugars.

Other dietary patterns

Vegetarian/vegan diets:

The vegan and vegetarian diets differ slightly in that vegetarians will include animal products (e.g. eggs, dairy products and honey) whereas a vegan avoids all food from animal origin. When carefully planned, these plant-based diets include an abundant, wide variety of fruits and vegetables, a moderate amount wholegrains and dairy (or alternatives). However, unlike in the ADG dietary pattern were meat is consumed as the main source of protein, vegetarians and vegans will substitute this for the protein in nuts, legumes and soy (e.g. tofu).

Mediterranean diet:

The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional diet of countries surrounding the Mediterranean sea such as Greece, Italy and Spain. This dietary pattern includes an abundant, wide variety of fruits and vegetables, a high intake of wholegrains, legumes and monounsaturated fats (e.g. the type fat mainly found in olive oil, avocado and some nuts), a moderate amount of oily fish (such as salmon and sardines), poultry and dairy products and a low amount of discretionary foods (foods high in saturated fat and added sugars).

All information is general in nature.  For more information, especially before starting a new dietary pattern please contact one of our Accredited Practising Dietitians at Sunshine Coast Dietetics.

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