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Habitually consuming a healthy, balanced diet is a challenge most Australians can relate to, but for Princess Alexandra Hospital Research Dietitian and Mediterranean Diet (MedDiet) expert Dr Hannah Mayr, the answer to getting more of us to eat better on the regular may partly be solved with a simple rebranding exercise.
“Research indicates a predominantly plant-based Mediterranean Diet promotes wellbeing and can prevent chronic disease, but in a recent national survey I conducted of dietitians, I found that patients’ language and culture could influence diet acceptance.”
Dr Mayr said in Australia’s multi-ethnic setting, the diet’s geographical title, which references the traditional way of eating and cuisine seen in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, may make it less appealing to people from different cultural backgrounds, and that reframing its name to something more general and inclusive like ‘healthy dietary pattern’ or ‘Mediterranean-style eating pattern’ could increase its appeal with a diverse audience.
“Metro South Health region is the most culturally diverse area in Queensland, with over 28 per cent of the population born overseas and 41 per cent whose first language isn’t English, so dietitians who are trying to support patients to look after their health need to take that into consideration when providing dietary advice.
“The focus should be on helping people adjust their current eating pattern to include more healthy foods and core foods in the MedDiet that can be adapted to suit other cultural cuisines. The name of the diet may not be important.”
Dr Mayr said the MedDiet was associated with reduced risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes and was recognised by the Word Health Organisation as a healthy and sustainable dietary pattern.
“The gist of the diet is redirecting focus towards consuming more fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, wholegrains, extra virgin olive oil, fish and seafood, and limiting the intake of red meat, processed foods, and sugary drinks.
“Eating socially with friends and family is also encouraged.”