A demonstration of how the Healthy Heart visual food guide can be affordably used by low-income families in New Zealand

Diet Cardiovascular diseases Low-income consumers Food accessibility New Zealand

Background: The New Zealand National Heart Foundation developed the Healthy Heart visual food guide to aid New Zealanders in selecting a healthy diet. The visual food guide conveys a balance and proportion of foods, based on the recommended volume of each food group. The main component of the Healthy Heart thus consists of a large volume of fruits and vegetables, equivalent to seven servings per day. This quantity is perceived by some health professionals to be unaffordable for low-income families subsisting on $150.00 per week (1).Objective: This study aimed to demonstrate how the Healthy Heart visual food guide can be used practically to provide a healthy and affordable diet that caters to different ethnic backgrounds within a budget typically available to a low-income family. Design: A meal plan was developed that covered breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for a family of four (two adults, two children) for a seven-day period. Two culturally appropriate dinner options were provided for both Pacific and Māori groups. FoodWorks Professional 7.0 was used to measure the macronutrient and micronutrient content of the meal plan as per the Nutrient Reference Values (NRV) for New Zealand and Australia. The meal plan was costed using the Menucoster programme to ensure that it could be purchased within a budget of $150.00. The food prices available on Menucoster were then checked against prices available at three Pak'nSave supermarkets and three independent fruit and vegetable outlets located in close proximity to the supermarkets. This food prices among the supermarkets and outlets were then averaged for each respective meal plan. Results: Each meal plan met the nutritional requirements, with the exception of iodine, which was only met by the Maori dinner meals. The iodine provided by the other meal plans ranged from 55-65% of recommended requirements. All meal plans were costed within the budget of $150.00. Conclusions: A healthy diet consistent with the Healthy Heart visual food guide can be purchased on a low-income budget if fresh fruit and vegetables are purchased from a cheaper alternative outlet to the supermarket, such as an Asian fruit and vegetable store, or another independent fruit and vegetable outlet.

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