Nutrition spotlight on healthy eating

Healthy eating: It’s time to consider quality, not just quantity.

In September, the British Nutrition Foundation launched the ‘Quality Calorie’ concept. Its aim is to promote the importance of making dietary choices that allow us to meet our nutritional requirements (including fibre, vitamins and minerals).

The principle is that two foods with the same calorie content can have very different nutrient profiles. For example, a snack of two digestive biscuits would provide you with about 160kcal, but also high amounts of free sugars and saturated fat. On the other hand, a 25g serving of walnuts will offer approximately the same number of calories and will contribute to a daily fibre intake. Walnuts are also a good source of the essential omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Previous nutritional campaigns have focused on calorie reduction and limiting intake of salt, sugar and saturated fat. However, whilst many foods low in energy offer ‘quality calories’, such as fruit or vegetables, some can be considered ‘empty calories’ such as low-calorie fizzy drinks. Additionally, many foods that are higher in energy, like nuts or oily fish, are nutritious and can form part of a healthy balanced diet, although portion size control is important for weight management.

From a public health point of view, this message is challenging to communicate as it requires educating the population about which foods have appropriate nutritional profiles. Therefore, the role of the food industry will be key in maximising the availability of tasty ‘quality calorie’. This will require great innovation in product development and marketing, supported by a basic understanding of the constituents of a healthy diet and what makes a ‘quality calorie’.

More details about the British Nutrition Foundation ‘Quality Calorie’ concept can be found on their website

Nicole Dorrington