Heart Foundation's Dave Monro on healthy eating in New Zealand

by Jennifer Bowden / 10 October, 2017

Dave Monro.

Healthy eating is not about extremes for the Heart Foundation’s food and nutrition manager.

But Dave Monro and other foundation staff try different diets to understand their challenges and benefits so they can provide tips for healthy, balanced eating. “We tried eating on a budget in June and now we’re going vegetarian for a month.”

What nutrition issue is frequently raised with you?

That butter and coconut are best for our heart because they’re natural. I’m all for people reducing their processed-food intake, but the best natural fats come from foods such as avocado, olive oil, oily fish, seeds and nuts other than coconut and palm.

What’s the foundation’s view of coconut oil?

It’s expensive, fashionable and over-hyped. Stick with extra-virgin olive oil.

How important is healthy eating to you?

I trained as both a dietitian and chef, so eating healthily is a personal priority, as is food taste and enjoyment.

How would you describe your diet and lifestyle?

Life’s busy. My wife and I work full-time and we have three children at primary school. I keep active by doing three circuits a week and also help coach my children’s rugby teams. The trick to making food and nutrition work in our household is planning and being organised.

What’s your typical breakfast?

Today I had two slices of wholemeal toast thickly spread with peanut butter, a piece of fruit and a milky coffee.

What about lunch?

Today’s was leftover chicken drumsticks, coleslaw, pita bread and an orange.

What’s your favourite evening meal?

We’re enjoying cauliflower rice as a replacement for normal rice or pasta. It’s easy to prepare and a great way to boost your vegetable intake. I also enjoy Sunday-night family meals – often that will be a roast. It’s a time to talk about the highlights of the weekend and look ahead to a new week.

What happens when you dine at other people’s houses?

I’ve lost count of how many times people have said, “Sorry, this won’t get the tick of approval!”

What’s the country’s most important nutrition issue?

The widening poverty gap. Some families are struggling to make ends meet and afford good food. We need a food environment that supports families to be healthier and to arm them with the knowledge and skills to eat well.

This article was first published in the September 2, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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