Friday, June 3, 2016

The big three nutrition trends we can expect to see in 2016

By Sarah Hyland, AIFST General Manager of Industry Services

Messages around nutrition can be overwhelming, so overwhelming in fact that many consumers are left confused about which product they should choose. By the same token, it’s confusing for food manufacturers when choosing what nutritional messaging to include on their product.

For food manufacturers, a product that is naturally functional – that provides benefits that are intrinsic to that food or beverage – is the Holy Grail for consumer nutritional messaging. With regular and positive attention given to naturally functional foods by the media, very little in the way of overt health claims is required for these products.

So potent is the idea of ‘naturally healthy’ that many consumers will even overlook the energy value of a food! Dark chocolate, olive oils, red wine and nuts are good examples.

So what can we expect to be some of the top emerging naturally functioning foods throughout 2016?

1. Beans: more than ‘good for your heart’
Beans are a significant part of traditional diets in a number of countries, shifting from an overnight soaker to a convenient and tasty snack food.

Beans are high in soluble fibre and protein, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as copper, folate and iron, as well as being low in fat, low GI, gluten free and containing no cholesterol.

Beans are enjoying some serious time in the spotlight this year with 2016 being the UN-declared International Year of Pulses.

2. Sweetness: that sugar ingredient
Thanks to its suspected role in obesity, inflammation and disease in general, sugar has become the smoking gun of the food industry and consumers are rejecting sugar almost as much as high kilojoule foods.

Artificial sweeteners have been the main response to these barriers, although alternatives such as aspartame and phenylalanine are now undesirable for consumers as well. Stevia, the natural alternative to sugar, has not been as popular as early backers had hoped.

While consumers say they do want less sugar in food and beverages, many prefer it to be from a natural ingredient that’s easy to understand, such as honey.

There is even some evidence that globally consumers are shifting away from sweetness and perhaps even lowering their sweetness threshold, evidenced by the growth in savoury snacking.

3. Free from: is there anything left to avoid?
Gluten free has been a significant growth trend in recent years, although the key growth opportunity for the trend over the next 3 – 5 years is likely to be in dairy-free and lactose-free products. The strong growth of nut milks is evidence of a fast-growing dairy-free message.

Many naturopaths and personal trainers default to a dairy-free diet as a prescription for dealing with weight or digestive problems. Interestingly, when many people reduce, dairy or lactose, they report feeling the benefit – and feeling the benefit is one of the biggest motivators for anyone to buy a healthier product.

As with gluten free, the lactose-free concept is that it delivers a benefit that the consumer can quickly see or feel.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Whole Grain Intake for Infants and Toddlers

With a consensus reached at the Centre for Food & Allergy Research (CFAR) Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines Summit on recommended updates to current Australian infant feeding guidelines, parents have been provided with greater clarity on infant feeding. However, one area of infant feeding which is less clearly defined is the role of whole grain in early nutrition.

GLNC’s Nutrition Program Manager, Chris Cashman, outlines the recent recommended updates in infant feeding guidelines and discusses the challenges of providing specific whole grain recommendations for infants.

Starting a healthy habit with whole grains in early life
At the recent Centre for Food & Allergy Research (CFAR) Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines Summit, held in May, a resounding agreement was reached by all participants who included key research and industry bodies, on updates to Australian infant feeding advice. While the updates translate the available evidence to optimise food allergy management and treatments, they apply to all infants and include the following recommendations to change the current Australian infant feeding guidelines:

1)      When your infant is ready, at around 6 months, but not before 4 months, start to introduce a variety of solid foods, starting with iron rich foods, while continuing breastfeeding.
2)      All infants should be given allergenic solid foods including peanut butter, cooked egg and dairy and wheat products in the first year of life. This includes infants at high risk of allergy.

This consensus provides parents, educators and health professionals with more clarify around the introduction of foods in the first year of life, however one aspect of infant feeding recently brought to GLNC’s attention as part of the annual review of the Code of Practice for Whole Grain Ingredient Content Claims, is that there is a lack of guidance for parents and educators when it comes to whole grain food recommendations for infants (7-12 months).

The absence of a specific guidance on whole grain food intake recommendations in infant feeding guidelines is a reflection of the lack of research on whole grain intakes of children and health.  In consultation with paediatric Accredited Practising Dietitians, GLNC determined that a specific whole grain ingredient content claim or recommendation for infants (7 – 12 months) was not appropriate to be included in the GLNC Code of Practice for Whole Grain Ingredient Content Claims.  This is based on the fact that infants are highly variable in their development so requirements will vary. A set recommendation will not be applicable to all infants and may lead a parent to feed their child amounts of whole grain beyond their needs and thus increase risk of excessive fibre intakes (and risk of constipation or satiation leading to suboptimal breastmilk intake).  

However, while advice around whole grain food intake is not specified in infant feeding guidelines, this is not to say that whole grain foods such as wholemeal bread, rusks or other cereals cannot be offered in alignment with infant feeding guidelines to infants in their first year of life. Australian infant feeding guidelines encourage parents to start to introduce a variety of solid foods, when an infant is ready, at around 6 months but not before 4 months, while continuing breastfeeding. Guidelines suggest starting with iron rich foods which can include grain foods and legumes. When it comes to whole grain choices, GLNC encourages the inclusion of some whole grain foods in to the diet of infants to promote healthy habits from a young age. Parents should however be aware of choking risks of intact grains.

Beyond the first year of life, for generally healthy toddlers dietary recommendations are based around choosing a variety of foods within each food group, at an appropriate overall intake for an individual child to support their growth and development, avoiding choking hazards. Offering whole grain foods from an early age, contributes towards the whole grain Daily Target Intake (DTI) for children 1-3 years which is 24 grams and the DTI for children 4- 8 years which is 32-40 grams.

The current Infant Feeding Guidelines can be found here and more information on this recent summit and recommendation can be found here.

NEW DATA: What’s Actually in Your Breakfast Cereal?

In 2015-2016 GLNC conducted a grain food product audit, examining the nutritional profile of 420 breakfast cereals found in four different retail supermarkets in the North Sydney/Cremorne area of Sydney(1). This comprehensive analysis included 165 ready-to-eat cereals, 182 mueslis (inc. granola and cluster products) and 73 hot cereals (i.e. rolled oats, porridge). The review used on pack information, including nutrition information, claims, logo and ingredients to determine content of fibre, protein, sodium, sugars and whole grains per serve and per 100g.

The audit confirmed the important role of the breakfast cereal category in delivering essential nutrition.
·         Almost 9 out of 10 breakfast cereals were a source of fibre (≥2g fibre per serve)
·         65% of breakfast cereals were a source of whole grain (≥8g whole grain per serve)
·         59% of breakfast cereals provided more than one-third of the whole grain daily intake (48g) in just one serve
·         35% of breakfast cereals were a source of plant-based protein (≥5g protein per serve).

But what about sugar and sodium?
  • 95% of breakfast cereals met the Australian Government’s benchmark for sodium reformulation set at 400mg/100g or less. 61% of breakfast cereals were low in sodium (≤120mg/100g)
  • 63% of breakfast cereals met the National Healthy School Canteens Guidelines for ‘Healthier Choice’ breakfast, with less than 20g of sugar per 100g.
According to the GLNC 2014 Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal study, 58% of Australians consume breakfast cereals, with wheat biscuits followed by flaked cereals and plain porridge/oats, being the most popular options(2).

The most comprehensive review of the nutrition and health effects of breakfast cereals to date, which included more than 230 papers over 30 years, reinforced the important role that breakfast cereals make as core grain foods to nutrition and health outcomes(3):

Children and adults who ate breakfast cereal regularly:
  • Had better quality diets and better nutritional status
  • Lower body mass index and lower risk of overweight and obesity
Regular whole grain and/or high fibre breakfast cereal consumption was associated with:
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Improved digestive wellbeing.

The 2015-2016 GLNC audit will be discussed in further detail, with a closer look at the nutritional content of breads, pasta, rice, noodles, couscous, crispbreads and rice/corn cakes at the upcoming GLNC event - the ‘Grains for Health Forum’ on 22 June. The Grains for Health Report will also be made available online on the GLNC website following the event. To register your interest for the event, please email However, places are limited.

1.            GLNC. GLNC 2015 Grains and Legumes Product Audit. Unpublished: Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council 2016.
2.            GLNC. 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Report. Unpublished: 2014.
3.            Williams PG. The Benefits of Breakfast Cereal Consumption: A Systematic Review of the Evidence Base. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal. 2014;5(5):636S-73S.

New ABS Data: How the Australian Diet Compares with the Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Consumption of Added Sugars

Using data collected as part of the most recent National Nutrition Survey (2011-12) the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has published a comprehensive comparison of Australians usual food intakes and the Australian Dietary Guidelines, as well as an analysis of the source of added sugars in Australians diets.

Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines
On the 12 May the ABS published the first ever comparison of the National Nutrition Survey with the Australian Dietary Guidelines(1).

The majority of Australians fell short of their grain food serve recommendations, consuming on average 4.5 serves of grain foods per day, with 18.3% coming from nutrient poor discretionary choices (i.e. cakes, muffins, pizza and pies). Of particular concern is that only 8.5% of women aged 19-30 years met the recommended number of serves of core grain foods a day, which means that women in this age group are not eating enough whole grain and high fibre grain foods for good health and nutrition.

The data also shows that only 34% of grain food consumption was from whole grain or high fibre grain foods. No age group met the recommendation for two thirds of grains as whole grain or high fibre grain foods. These results are concerning as the scientific evidence shows that people who eat at least three serves a day of whole grain and high fibre grain foods are at a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, as well as being less likely to gain weight(2).

With all the messages in the media about what constitutes a healthy diet, people may be confused about grains, which could be contributing to intakes falling short of recommendations. What is even more concerning is that the GLNC Consumption and Attitudinal Study(3) shows that between 2011 and 2014 Australians reduced their core grain food intakes by approximately 30%, based on belief that these foods do not contribute important nutrition or health benefits. In contrast to this misconception, the National Nutrition Survey demonstrated that grain foods are the leading contributors of key essential nutrients in the Australian diet including fibre, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and iodine(4).

GLNC is concerned that Australians are not meeting the recommendations for a balanced diet. Australians should be encouraged to choose core grain foods over discretionary options, with a preference for whole grain and high fibre grain foods most of the time.

Consumption of Added Sugars
On the 27 April the ABS published their first ever an analysis of the intakes of added sugar in the Australian diet(5). With all the attention around added sugar in the media of late, this analysis adds a weight of evidence to the discussion.

An estimated one in two Australians exceeding the World Health Organisation’s recommendation that free sugars contribute to less than 10% total energy intake(5). The largest source of free sugars in the Australian diet comes from discretionary (or ‘treat’) foods and drinks (81%), such as cakes, muffins, confectionery, sweetened drinks. Core grain foods (breakfast cereals, breads, pasta, other cereal grains) were shown to only contribute a small percentage of the total proportion of free sugars (3.4%), with breakfast cereals only contributing 3%, fruit/nut/seed bars 0.1% and muesli or cereal style bars 0.8%.

Australians should not cut down on nutrient-rich core foods, which may contain naturally occurring sugars or low levels of added sugars. These core foods are an important part of a balanced diet that provides nutrients essential to health and wellbeing. Instead, people should focus on reducing their intake of discretionary foods and drinks, which is likely the most effective way to reduce intake of added sugars. 

Note: Free sugars include sugars added during food and beverage processing and preparation, as well as those naturally present in honey, dried fruit and fruit juice.

1.            ABS. 2011-2012 Australian Health Survey: Consumption of food groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011–12 — Australia. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016.
2.            NHMRC. Australian Dietary Guidelines Providing the scientific evidence for healthier Australian diets. 2013 Accessed online January 2014.
3.            GLNC. 2014 Australian Grains and Legumes Consumption and Attitudinal Report. Unpublished: 2014.
4.            ABS. National Health Survey: First Results, 2014-15. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014-15.
5.            ABS. Australian Health Survey: Consumption of added sugars, 2011-12  Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016.