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Food-based dietary guidelines

Food-based dietary guidelines - Malta

Official name

The healthy plate: Dietary guidelines for Maltese adults.

Publication year

The first food-based dietary recommendations emanated from the Report of the First Malta Nutrition Conference, held in 1986. The current guidelines have been revised and published in 2016, in accordance with the Food and Nutrition Policy and Action Plan for Malta (2015-2020).

Process and stakeholders

The new ‘Healthy Plate’ FBDGs and complementary visual were developed by an Advisory Group, with representatives from the Ministry of Health, universities and hospitals. They have been endorsed by the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate of the Ministry of Health. 

Intended audience

The guidelines are directed at the general adult Maltese population (19-65 years).

Food guide

The graphical representation of the Healthy Plate represents the six main food groups (cereal products, vegetables, fruit, milk and dairy, meat and alternative meat products, and fats and oils) which the Maltese people are encouraged to include in their daily healthy diet. The size of each food group segment reflects the proportion the group should contribute to the total daily diet. 

Messages

  1. Select a wide variety of nutritious foods from each of the six food groups every day
    • Choose nutritious foods from each of the six food groups.
    • Always check food labels when shopping for food. Choose food products that contain the least amount of salt, sugar, saturated and trans fats (found in hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetables oils/fat).
    • Use cooking methods such as steaming, baking, boiling, grilling or microwaving rather than frying.
    • Store cooked food appropriately.
  2. Limit the consumption of these types of foods:
    • Saturated and trans fat, sugars and salt
      • Avoid adding salt to your food during cooking or at the table.
      • Limit the consumption of ready-made foods containing high amounts of added sugar, salt/sodium; saturated and hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated (trans) fats. Remember, the higher the ingredient(s) is in the ingredients list, the larger its amounts in the food product.
      • Limit consumption of sweets, sugar and fat-rich desserts, ice-cream, cakes, pastries, spreads and other confectionaries. Eat on an occasional basis and as part of the main meal.
      • Avoid adding sugar to your tea or coffee.
      • Limit the consumption of processed meat. 
    • Wine and alcohol
      • Moderate your intake of alcohol, if you choose to drink alcohol.
      • Avoid drinking completely if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if advised by your medical doctor.
      • Avoid drinking completely if you are driving or operating machinery.
    • Energy drinks
      • Avoid energy drinks
  3. Drink plenty of water
    • Choose plain water as your beverage as often as possible.
    • Drink adequate amounts (1.5 to 2.0 litres) of fluids, especially water, each day.
    • Avoid soft and sweetened drinks especially in children.
    • Increase your water intake in hot weather and with increased activity.
    • Sugar-free herbal infusions or low-fat, low-salt broths are good alternatives to water.
  4. Keep active
    • Be active each day. Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, swimming and cycling, on most days of the week.
    • Be active for longer periods of time if you need to reduce weight or maintain a healthy weight for life.
    • Reduce the time spent in sedentary activities, such as watching TV, using social media and computer games.
    • Consult your medical doctor before starting any type of intense physical activity; especially if you have a history of health problems.

 

In addition, the document provides a series of guidelines for each food group:

  • Vegetables and fruit
    • Eat at least three servings (240g) of vegetables and two servings (160g) of fruit each day.
    • Select from a wide variety of vegetables (best if local and in season).
    • Select from a wide variety of fruit (best if local and in season), but do not over consume.
    • Choose fresh or frozen vegetables/fruits rather than canned vegetables/fruits. If using canned vegetables/fruits, rinse them well or choose low (or no) salt/sugar added varieties when available.
    • Choose whole fresh fruits over juice, dried fruit or canned fruit. Dried fruit and fruit juices can damage your teeth. Hence, only one portion is considered as one of the two recommended daily portions of fruit. In addition, they are best consumed during mealtimes to reduce the damage to your teeth. 
  • Cereals
    • Include whole grains such as oats, couscous, quinoa, bulgur wheat, barley, and millet, pasta and rice with meals and snacks. 
  • Milk and dairy
    • Choose low fat milk and plain yoghurts instead of full fat. Chopped fresh fruit can be added for taste for better health value.
    • Choose cheeses that are lower in fat (e.g. cottage cheese, irkotta, mozzarella, fresh pasteurised ġbejniet).
    • Consume small portions to minimize your intake of saturated fat and salt. 
  • Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, unsalted nuts and seeds
    • Choose lean cuts of meat.
    • Trim excess fat and remove skin from poultry before cooking.
    • Eat about two or more servings of fish each week, one of which could be an oily fish. Choose from a wide variety of fresh and seasonal fish.
    • Include legume-based dishes throughout the week. These could take the form of home-made dips (bigilla, red kidney dip and hummus). Salads (bean and chickpea salad), stews, vegetable soups (minestra) and home-made torta talful.
    • Limit intake of red meat to less than twice weekly.
    • Processed meats (e.g. deli luncheon meat and ham, smoked cold meat cuts, canned meat and sausages) are to be eaten only occasionally. 
  • Fats and oils
    • Choose mostly vegetable oils such as olive, canola and sunflower.
    • Include foods rich in omega-3 fats such as fish, nuts and flaxseeds or their oils.
  • Herbs and spices
    • Add herbs and spices
    • Add garlic and onions, vinegar and/or lemon juice

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