Call to replace food pyramid
The traditional food pyramid should be scrapped and replaced by a "food plate", Fine Gael Limerick TD Patrick O'Donovan has said.
The food pyramid is used by nutritionists to help people to choose the right amount of food from each food group. The lower shelves of the pyramid contain healthy foods while foods high in fat, salt and sugar are at the top of the pyramid.
Mr O'Donovan said the pyramid was being replaced by the food plate model in the United States as it was thought to be more effective in tackling obesity. The US campaign, which encourages people to fill half of their plates with fruit and vegetables, is being championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.
"It's a very simple graphic with a plate split into four appropriately sized sections for fruit, vegetables, grains and protein," Mr O'Donovan said. "It's accompanied by a smaller plate for dairy products."
He said the food pyramid was out of date, overly complicated and cluttered. Last month, Minister for Health James Reilly announced changes to the food pyramid, including the addition of alcohol to the top shelf because of its calorie content.
Earlier this week, research was published linking overweight children to greater risk of heart disease. Dr Donal O'Shea, consultant endocrinologist at St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown, Co Dublin, said the findings were "a slap in the face" that must drive policymakers to keep working to prevent obesity in children.
Mr O'Donovan said it was clear the healthy eating message was not getting through. "Often, the simplest ideas work the best. The food plate is very easy to understand and could help us to get across the message that we all need to eat a balanced diet to stay healthy," he said.