My food history # 8 – The 1980s Healthy Eating (Core Foods) Pyramid

Healthy Eating Pyramid 1986 Australian Nutrition Foundation (now known as Nutrition Australia)


Mid 1980s – A turnaround in my diet to Friendly Food

Sorting out the family diet after the RPAH protocol for food sensitivities (1) was at first daunting and confusing. The prime objectives were to get my son well, establish his symptoms due to diet and the culprit foods, then exclude only those foods. This final modified diet was to become the ‘friendly’ diet (2) we grew to know, of foods that were safe for my son to eat without him becoming ill. However, I also wanted the family diet to be a ‘healthy’ diet in fulfilling long-term objectives of preventing diseases that plagued my parent’s generation: heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The longer-term family diet also had to be nutritionally adequate, palatable, fit in with the family lifestyle and be socially acceptable. How could I meet all those objectives? 

Good Food Bad Foods 

Having a food sensitive child on a restricted diet became a guilt-laden journey through motherhood. Guilt in denying my child foods. Guilt if he became ill when I had the power to prevent that. Guilt if I gave him foods he could tolerate yet were not deemed ‘healthy’. For me, it became necessary to differentiate foods my child should not eat (for long-term health) from foods he could not eat or he would become ill. It became important to drop the purist ideal of dividing foods into good and bad and focus on the overall diet. So while our family diet needed to be  friendly all the time, and I chose to make it healthy most of the time, there were introduced foods that I realized were not so ‘unhealthy’ as I previously thought, and those social occasions and times of celebration when the healthy side could become more flexible in allowing in ‘occasional’ foods.

Many foods I previously considered good foods for a hearthealthy diet were now off the family menu – highly acidic fruits and colourful vegetables. Bland foods such as bread, cereals, pasta and potatoes, being ‘friendly’ filling foods that satisfied the children’s hunger, became the mainstay of the diet. Moderate amounts of green vegetables, pears, legumes, chicken, eggs, red meat and milk provided the rest of the diet.

With the diet thus restricted, I became more flexible in giving the children choices in bread and tolerated breakfast cereals. While I tried to encourage wholemeal bread and whole grain cereals, I did not foist strict insistence of wholegrains onto them. This gave them choice and variety. There were also other compromises from my former ‘healthy-food’ mindset …

Foods sometimes considered bad (added fats, oils and sugars); in small amounts provided extra kilojoules on the restrictions of the exclusion diet. Long-term they increased the convenience, social acceptance and palatability of an otherwise bland diet. With refined flour, they became a means to provide occasional home-made treats … with much emphasis on occasional and home-made.


Starting out on strictly friendly foods with seemingly many nutritious foods excluded,  I initially used vitamin-mineral supplements. In reality, the children probably did not require them. However, when I was just learning about the diet, this took away concern they may become micro-nutrient deprived due to the dietary restrictions.

Our overall food pattern  – the Healthy Eating Pyramid

To achieve all the family’s food, health and social objectives and provide balance I followed the principles of the healthy diet pyramid (3), as produced in Australia by the Australian Nutrition Foundation (now known as Nutrition Australia). The foods that became the mainstay of our diet (bread, cereals, pasta, potatoes, green vegetables and pears) were at the base of the pyramid. Meat, milk and eggs were consumed moderately as the middle of the pyramid. Small amounts of fats, oils and sugar were included as depicted by the small pyramid top. This simple pictorial guideline provided me with confidence I was doing the right thing by my child. It had become our family diet and it was also the food pattern recommended by trusted health advocates.

One worthy note, our family diet consisted almost entirely of core foods and home-made foods from basic ingredients. Except for some breakfast cereals and plain crackers, the pantry and freezer were bare of convenience foods, confectionery, and commercial snack foods. We never had fast-food. Takeaways were restricted to the bare few safe for my son (eg plain rotisserie chicken). One could say my children’s diet was mainly (4) free of ultra-processed foods for their entire childhood.

Over the years I focussed on that overall healthy eating pattern for my children, based on the pyramid of core foods, rather than worrying about individual foods or nutrients. On this eating pattern my failure-to-thrive thrived. All four of my children were generally healthy and free of major illnesses throughout their entire childhood. They left home, in their late teens, fit and lean. This eating pattern became my own eating pattern from the mid 1980s.

With such a huge improvement in my young son on friendly food, I began to get flooded with enquiries from other parents …

This is a series of posts on my food history from my childhood up until 2013.

This is a series of posts on my food history from my childhood up until 2013.
My food history # 1 – My childhood diet – Late 1950s, early 1960s
My food history # 2 – Mid 1960s – First nutrition lessons
My food history # 3 – Late 1960s – Times are a-changing
My food history # 4 – Critical moments – my father
My food history # 5 – Fit 1970s – fibre – fruit – free of sugar
My food history # 6 – 1980s – Critical moments – a health scare – hypertension
My food history # 7 (part 1) – 1980s – Food Sensitivities – shattered ideals of healthy food
My food history # 7 (part 2) – 1980s – Food sensitivities – proving the culprit foods
My food history # 7 (part 3) – 1980s – Food sensitivities – hypertension & biogenic amines
My food history # 8 – The 1980s Healthy Eating Pyramid
My food history # 9 – The 1990s Nutrition studies – low GI – lipoproteins
My food history # 10 – 1990s combining ‘friendly’ with ‘healthy’ – a bland yet healthy diet
My food history # 11 – The 2000s – slow ticking time bombs
My food history # 12 – Critical events and life catastrophes

Disclaimer: Nothing in this article or on this website should be taken as medical or dietary advice. Anyone reading any information provided within should seek advice from their own medical practitioner for any issue, disease, illness or health-related problem they may have. Always seek your own advice from a medical practitioner or dietitian before changing your own diet.


(1) Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (Sydney) Exclusion Diet protocol.

(2) Friendly Food Recipe Book. Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

(3) Healthy Eating Pyramid. Nutrition Australia

(4) “Mainly” = while there were plain uncoloured unpreserved confectionery (white marshmallows etc), potato crisps, and pastries available, as inclusion of these foods did not fit my own idea of ‘healthy’ foods, these were infrequent foods for the children restricted mainly to events such as children’s birthday parties.






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