A diet consistent with the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends people consume a variety of foods across and within five food groups, and avoid foods that contain too much added fat, salt and sugar. The guide aims to promote healthy eating habits throughout life, which will assist in reducing the risk of health problems in later life, such as heart disease, obesity and Type 2 Diabetes (www.health.act.gov.au).
To remain healthy, we need to eat food from five main food groups. Food is the fuel for our bodies, the fuel that produces energy to help our body grow and repair itself, and to keep warm.
Food groups are determined based on their nutrient similarity; the five groups are shown below.
Examples: Bread, Rice, Cereals, Pasta, Noodles
Main Distinguishing Nutrients: Carbohydrate, Iron, Thiamine
Grains are the food group that we should eat from most often. Flavoursome and versatile, this group usually forms the basis to most of our meals. ‘Grains’ are characteristically rich in carbohydrates which provide slow release glucose that keeps us satisfied for longer, they also provide us with energy which helps our bodies function effectively.
Try to have at least 4 servings of ‘Grains' every day, an example of a serve might be:
- 1 cup of cooked pasta
- 1 cup of cooked rice
- 1 cup of breakfast cereal
- 2x slices of bread
It is important to note, particularly with breads, that wholemeal grains have on average more than twice the fibre of white bread which is great for our digestive systems and an all round better choice for our bodies.
Examples: Banana, Apple, Pear, Orange, Peach, Mango
Main Distinguishing Nutrients: Vitamins, especially vitamin C
With so many different options for this group, fruit is a delicious and much healthier alternative to lollies and sweets. Fruit is an excellent natural source of fibre and vitamins which helps our bodies to digest food efficiently and boost our immune systems.
To make the most of this group we should always find out what’s in season; summer brings out the beautiful tropical fruits in the warm weather such as mangoes, peaches, pineapples, strawberries and cherries. Whereas winter will boast delicious pears, apples, juicy oranges and tangelos. The advantage of eating seasonally will ensure a much richer flavour and better price point. Click here to see our seasonal guide.
Try to have at least 2 servings of fruit every day, examples of a serve might be:
- 1 handful of fresh raspberries
- 1 medium sized fruit (e.g. apple, orange, banana)
- 2 small sized fruit (e.g. plums, figs, nectarine)
- 8 strawberries
Did you know that the avocado is part of the fruit family? Avocado is one of the few savoury fruits and can be a great alternative to butter or margarine with only a quarter of the fat content of yellow spreads! Next time try your toast with a smooth spread of fresh avocado.
Vegetables and Legumes
Examples: Potatoes, Broccoli, Carrot, Spinach, Lentils, Peas, Mushrooms
Main Distinguishing Nutrients: Vitamin A (beta-carotene)
Vegetables and legumes are full of fibre and packed with nutrients which form an essential part of a healthy diet. Some people may be adverse to this particular group, but vegetables and legumes can be absolutely delicious, especially when they are eaten in season and prepared the right way!
Providing a range of vitamins and minerals is essential for normal growth, this food group is versatile and can complement every meal.
Try to have at least 5 serves of vegetables or legumes every day, an example of a serve might be:
- 1 medium potato
- 1 cup of bean sprouts or leafy vegetables
- 2 florets of broccoli
- ½ cup of lentils or broad beans
There are lots of different ways to cook vegetables such as steaming, boiling, blanching, roasting, stirfrying and barbequing - each method results in variet flavours and texture. Remember to try and cook vegetables as lightly as you can and close to serving time as possible to get the full nutritional benefit.
Examples: Milk, Cheese, Yoghurt
Main Distinguishing Nutrients: Calcium and Protein
The dairy group is high in calcium and an excellent source of protein which is vital for the development of our bodies, particularly in children. Calcium is fundamental in helping young bones grown strong and then maintaining healthy bones and teeth throughout your life. Protein helps strengthen our body’s cells.
Dairy products can be enjoyed in an assortment of both sweet and savoury ways.
You should try and have at least 2 serves of dairy produce every day. An example of a serve might be:
- 40g of cheese
- 250ml of milk
- 200g of yoghurt
Dairy is extremely versatile food group and can be used in a variety of different ways. Along with using milk as a standard cereal accompaniment why not also yoghurt to a fruit smoothie or to accompany a curry.
Meat, fish and alternatives
Examples: Chicken, Beef, Salmon, Eggs, Nuts
Main Distinguishing Nutrients: Protein, Iron, Zinc
This food group covers off a variety of different types of food including poultry, red meat, seafood and eggs - all of which are rich in iron and protein helping to boost energy levels by transferring oxygen throughout the body.
As well as being a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals, all types of seafood also contain omega-3 fats that help maintain a healthy heart. All Australian seafood rates as a good source of these vital fats.
You should have around one serve of meat, seafood, poultry eggs or legumes everyday. One serve might be:
- A small fish fillet (80-120g)
- 2 small eggs
- 1/2 cup of canned fish
- 65-100g of lean meat or chicken
Sometimes plain cuts of meat can be a little boring if they are just served on their own. So instead of dousing your food in processed or bottled sauces why not try adding a fresh marinade or homemade salsa? Try making a nutty pesto with fresh basil, pinenuts, olive oil and parmesan to serve with your chicken breasts or drizzle your fish fillets in tangy lime, fresh basil and crushed garlic.