Pete Evans Paleo Diet vs The National Heart Foundation Tick

Ohhh the recent media battle in Australia has me amped up…I know I’m not alone in this!

I sometimes don’t know if to feel frustrated, simply laugh at the ridiculousness, or ignore it all together. At this point, I think there is a fusion of the first two options, and my innate feeling of responsibility to speak up as a representative of both myself as a dietitian, and potentially some of the others in my industry.

It appears as though the fact that the National Heart Foundation of Australia is reviewing their Tick program (which was already taking place prior to the recent media uproar) is fuelling Pete Evans and the paleo tribes wave..

Let it be very clear:

Just because the National Heart Foundation Tick program needs some serious updates (which I whole heatedly agree with), does not mean that cutting out a legume from your diet is going to make you healthier than the person next to you who does eat them!

national heart foundation tick program

national heart foundation tick program

I have always thought there were some real flaws in the Tick program, and the fact that only certain aspects of the nutrition information panel were taken into consideration when assessing a product, and not taking enough consideration of the actual ingredients list or glycemic index of the final product both have continually struck a cord with me (if you want to see the actual criteria they use, have a look here).

As an example, the fibre requirements for a bread to obtain the Tick are only 4g/100g…that seems way too low to me given that it implies the kilojoules in the final product would predominantly be coming from non-fibre based carbohydrates, resulting in a high glycemic load.

Another example that wouldn’t sit right with me as a refined carb hating girl would be how any meal that contains the bun from a McDonalds burger can be promoted as a healthy choice. I know I’m not the only one thinking this.

Australian national heart foundation Tick Mcdonalds

Australian national heart foundation Tick Mcdonalds

I recall when I used to make label reading presentations on behalf of other organisations to corporate groups and there was a slide on the Tick program that I would feel uncomfortable with how to best present this information – I wanted to both not criticise in full the peak health bodies (who let it be known, do A LOT of good for the country and the health of Australians), whilst at the same time I did not completely agree that their assessments were giving a complete picture of a foods health related properties.

I think consumers are becoming more savvy… and I think this is a fabulous thing! I also think we are all clear that the fake products should be put down, and that the real food should be picked up. There are no arguments here.

I can see why Pete Evans and his followers have a problem with the national heart foundation tick program based on a product like this.

I can see why Pete Evans and his followers have a problem with the national heart foundation tick program based on a product like this.

If the National Heart Foundation removes the Tick program I won’t be that upset.

The amount of reformulated, yet still unhealthy products that are filled with empty calories coming from predominantly low fibre carbohydrates (either complex or sugars) that carry the Tick and are promoted as healthy will not be missed in my eyes.

If The National Heart Foundation Tick program is simply replaced with the new Health Star Rating system, I think this is a step in the right direction, but will still not completely resolve the misunderstandings in what classifies a food as healthy.

If the NUVAL system came to Australia..I would be a very happy dietitian. Although to be fair, it too would still have steps forward to go when it comes to assessing ingredients rather than just nutrients.

So what are the main take aways from all of this? 

1. It is great that The National Heart Foundation of Australia is taking the initiative to review how they assess food products (fingers crossed they come up with a better formula).

2. The Health Star Rating system is definitely a step in the right direction, but certainly isn’t the finite answer (if it is even possible for something to be “finite” is another question for another day).

3. The increasing rates of autism are not a direct result of The National Heart Foundations Tick Program (had to throw that in, sorry!) or the Dietitians Association of Australia.

4. The National Heart Foundation and the Dietitians Association of Australia are made up of an immense number of proactive, knowledgable, and reputable professionals that have thorough training in their respective fields. These people should not be blanketed by anyone, let alone media characters without the same qualifications, as being responsible for the ill health of a population.

5. You can eat legumes and whole-grains such as BARLEYmax to obtain some of the much needed resistant starch to keep you lean, help your body be me more responsive to the insulin your body naturally produces, as well as fuel the good bacteria in your gut for a healthy immune and digestive system.

6.  You can consume some dairy to obtain a bit of lean fat busting CLA (and Aussies, your cows are not injected with the hormones that a so called celebrity chef keeps talking about..that is a problem over here in the USA), live probiotics, and protein for muscle development.

7. You can eat a paleo diet and it be a very healthy diet that provides these things too, should you select just doesn’t have to feel as though it needs to be an all or nothing approach if you don’t want it to be.

Not paleo, still healthy.

Not paleo, still healthy.

I hope this post provides some clarity into the common sense approach that can be taken at the moment, and that those of you selecting packaged foods continue to flip the packages over and look at the ingredients lists and nutrition information panel as a whole, rather than just at the info-graphics on the front.

I look forward to seeing what comes next in both the public health space as well as the food industry.

Until next time,

TD x

About The Author

Kara Landau aka "Travelling Dietitian" is an Australian Accredited Practicing Dietitian based in NYC. She is a world explorer, healthy foodie, social butterfly, barre and HIIT class lover. When she isn't trying new cuisines, researching new product innovations in the health food space, or speaking to the media on behalf of her food industry clients, she can be found quietly conjuring up her next idea on how to make this world a healthier and better place.