By Val Cocksedge
NCWQ Nutrition Adviser

fruit-vegetables-on-table
The theme for 2015 World Food Day – 16th October is “Social Protection and Agriculture – Breaking the Cycle of rural poverty”. Social protection has been chosen as the theme to highlight its importance in reducing rural poverty and granting access to food or means to buy food.

In Australia, National nutrition Week runs from 11-17 October and is encouraging Australians to “Pick Right” and “Feel Right” by committing to eating 5 serves of vegetables every day for one week. Recent statistics show that nearly 95% of all Australians do not eat the recommended amount of vegetables. The average Australian eats less than half what is recommended (5 serves), yet around one third of what is eaten is “take-away” foods, cakes, sweets and sugary foods.

The Department of Health has announced the release of a new “Eat for Health” resource – the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Guide to Healthy Eating. The new Indigenous guide is intended to be used by health professionals and educators throughout Australia for use in a range of Indigenous Community settings and will complement the existing Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Print copies are available in A4 and A1 format at www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines

Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food Mobile Kitchen Courses started 29 October at Q.U.T. Kelvin Grove Campus at a cost of $10-$20 per class. Hands on classes teach simple healthy delicious meals. The basic 5 week cooking course consists of 90 minutes per class per week. For more information visit: www.jamieoliver.com/jamiesministry-of-food-australia

Sports drinks are being blamed for contributing to a “silent epidemic” of tooth erosion in Queensland due to their high sugar levels and acidity. The drinks eroded enamel leading to sensitivity, yellowing teeth, prone to cavities and obesity. Almost 40% of construction workers drink large quantities of energy drinks despite the emerging health risks associated with excessive consumption of caffeine and sugar. These products are now banned from some sites.

The Wold Food Organisation (FAO) recommends we limit our intake of “free” or added sugars to no more than 10% of our total energy intake, in order to reduce our risk of overweight, obesity and tooth decay.

74% of all packaged food has sugar added in some form. In Australia, the total amount of sugar is a product is listed in the N.I.P. (Nutrition Information Panel), but it does not differentiate sugars that have been added by the manufacturer from those that are intrinsic in the food (lactose in milk). The higher up the ingredients list, the more sugar the product contains. One of the recommendations from the 2011 Food Labelling Review was that “the term “added sugars” be included in the ingredient list as the general term followed by a bracketed list with further details e.g. added sugars (fructose, glucose, syrup, honey etc.) Added sugars can include 42 different names e.g. “agave nectar, syrup, beet sugar, carob syrup, corn syrup, demerarra, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, maltose, molasses, palm sugar, coconut sugar, treacle, rice malt syrup, muscovado, maple syrup, sucrose to name a few.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand is currently providing technical advice to ministers on the 2011 recommendation, to be voted on soon. Do you agree that added sugars should be identified on ingredient lists? If so join the campaign www.choice.good.do/sugar

According to U.S. research high fructose drinks such as fruit juice and fizzy soft drinks do not give the brain signs of fullness. Coca-Cola Amatil last year introduced a smaller 250 ml can. In the face of consumers demanding more healthy choices and decline in profit, Coke Life (a blend of sugar and stevia leaf extract) was introduced this year. (10 teaspoons sugar again against 16 in regular Coke) Sprite (18 teaspoons), V (13 teaspoons).

Drink water instead (water is essential for everyday functioning of the body – digestive system, kidneys, skin, lungs) Tiredness is often a symptom of dehydration.

Recently so called “sugar free” cook books have been released. The recipes use rice malt syrup, molasses, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar (refer to above list of added sugars)

The foods most available to us are determined by a few multinational companies intent on growth and profit leading to foods offered high in sugar, fat and salt. They determine the portion we eat through their packaging and have convinced us that pleasure comes from eating “junk” food.

Fast food outlets are strategically placed on busy routes, the end of supermarket aisles, service stations, drive-throughs, sporting clubs, newsagencies, vending machines, hospitals, canteens and school fund-raising all offer convenience with readily available food and drink of poor nutritional value – often high in sugar, fat and salt.

A recent review from the Murdock Children’s’ Research Institute found childhood obesity had doubled since the 1980s and now sits at more than 25%. Children are now more technology immersed instead of being active, playing outside, involved in sport, joining in outdoor activities.

A study at Deakin University and ANU found that the part of the brain used for leaning, memory and mental health is smaller in people with poor diets showing that diet is critically important to mental health as sell as physical health.

Chronic Illness is blowing the Health budget – preventable diseases including diabetes, heart and obesity related conditions, mental illness. About 14 million Australians are now overweight or obese – continuing to eat processed, low nutrient food and drink and remaining inactive. Reports show 280 Australians are diagnosed with diabetes every day with 9 in 10, being type 2 diabetes. High blood glucose is the main culprit and can cause damage to the eye, impair kidney function and damage nerves and large blood vessels in the body causing high blood pressure and cardio-vascular disease. The treatment for type 2 diabetes is usually tablets with important life style treatment of healthy diet and regular exercise.

Food Revolution Day – 15 May 2015 was a global campaign to put compulsory practical food education in school curriculum. Worldwide, there are 42 million children under 5 who are overweight or obese with diet related illnesses among the world’s biggest killers. Jamie Oliver passionately believes

that by educating children about food in a fun and engaging way, can equip them with the basic skills they need to lead healthier, happier lives for themselves and their future families. Jamie launched a    petition calling on all G20 countries to make practical food education a compulsory part of every school curriculum. Some positives are being taken –

  • In England – the School Food Plan made cooking lessons and food education compulsory.
  • In Mexico, all schools promote healthy eating through compulsory nutrition education (General Law on Education)
  • Food education has been part of the curriculum in Japan since 2005 and Finland has a long history of Home Economics.

In Australia, the Home Economics Institute of Australia Education Standing Committee has pressed for the inclusion of food and nutrition across the curriculum. Good practical and compulsory food education should be available in every school for every child. Children to-day are the first generation predicted to have shorter lives than their parents.

New “Made in Australia” food labels could be seen on packs as soon as the end of the year. They include – “Made in Australia from 100% Australian ingredients”; “Made in Australia from more than 50% of Australian ingredients”; “Made in Australia from 0% Australian ingredients”; “Grown in Australia”; “Packed in Australia”; “Made in ……………..”; ”Packed in Australia – grown in ………………..”. All labels will be shown with the gold kangaroo in the green triangle at the top, followed by a graph showing the Australian content in gold with description below. Unfortunately, they do not show the origin of non- Australian ingredients which is important when making the decision to support Australian product and producers. There may be concern about the chemicals and pesticides permitted for food production in some countries and the environmental impact of transporting food from distant places.

Supermarkets claim they are committed to local sourcing of their food products. For a full list of products reviewed their country of origin statements as well as where Aldi, Coles, Woolworths source their fresh fruit and vegetable see: www.choice.com.au/supermarketcool

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