Food and Drinks

Healthy diet and eating

Australian Dietary Guidelines

What foods should you put on your dinner plate? How much and how often should you eat?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines are a source of up-to-date information about the type and number of servings of different foods we should eat to maintain good health and nutrition. The Australian Guide to Healthful Eating contains these guidelines.

The Guidelines were developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council in collaboration with independent nutrition experts. The guidelines are based upon the latest science on what foods, amounts, and dietary patterns are believed to be the most beneficial for health and wellbeing and to reduce the risk of chronic diseases and diet-related conditions.

Variety is key

Healthy eating is about eating foods from all five major food groups in the recommended amounts.

Eating foods from all five major food groups will provide a wide range of nutrients, improve your health and reduce your risk of illness. You can also keep things interesting by trying new flavors and textures.

The 5 food groups do not include many of the foods we eat regularly. Some of these foods are referred to as “junk” foods, “discretionary foods,” or “occasional foods.” They can be eaten occasionally, but they should not form part of a healthy diet. Oils and fats contain a lot of energy but are necessary to eat in small quantities.

It’s simple to make small changes to your diet to align it with the Australian Dietary Guideline. Focus on foods from the five major food groups, and reduce your intake of occasional items.

Five major food groups

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating divides the food that should be included in our daily diets into five major food groups.

There are 5 main food groups:

Vegetables and Legumes or Beans


lean poultry and meatfishtofunuts or seeds.

cereals (grains), mainly wholegrain or high fiber varieties

milk or other alternatives with reduced fat, such as yogurt and cheese.

Foods that are similar in terms of their key nutrients can be grouped together. The key nutrients in the group of milk, yogurt, and cheese alternatives include protein and calcium. In contrast, the fruit group contains vitamins.

A varied and well-balanced eating plan involves eating foods from all five food groups in the recommended quantities every day. It is important to select a wide variety of foods within each food category because different foods contain different amounts and types of nutrients. As an added bonus, a variety will keep your meals fresh and interesting so you won’t become bored.

Foods for special occasions

Some foods are not included in the five food groups, as they are not essential for a healthy eating plan. These foods are referred to as “discretionary foods” (or sometimes referred to simply as junk foods) and should only be consumed occasionally.

These foods are often high in sugar, salt, alcohol, or added sugar but low in fiber and other important nutrients.

The kilojoules in these foods and beverages can be excessive. Eating more kilojoules (energy) than your body requires can lead to weight gain.

Some examples of “discretionary foods” or “occasional food” are:

Sweet biscuits, desserts, cakes and pastries

Processed meats, sausages with high salt and fat content, savory pastries, and pies.

Takeaway foods such as hamburgers, hot chips, and pizza

Sweetened condensed Milk

Alcoholic drinks

Ice cream and other ice desserts

Chocolate and confectionery

Commercially fried foods

Potato chips, crisps, and other salty and/or fatty snacks including some biscuits

Cream, butter, and spreads that are high in saturated fats

Soft drinks and cordials with sugar, sports and energy beverages.

You can enjoy these foods occasionally as a treat. If you regularly substitute these foods with more nutritious and healthy foods, your risk for obesity and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer increases.

Takeaway meals and restaurant meals

Takeaway food and restaurant meals are often high in saturated fats, sugars, and salt.

Consider how often you consume foods and beverages prepared outside of your home. Consider cutting back on your consumption and focusing on the five major food groups. This doesn’t mean that you should stop eating.

You can reduce saturated fats in food items that you order from take-out by:

Order a takeaway without fries.

Choose from a variety of bread-based dishes such as wraps, kebabs or hamburgers.

Choose a pastry or deep-fried option instead.

Include more vegetables and salad.

Reduce the calories by choosing smaller portions or sharing with others. Add a green salad.

Remember, you can always ask for less.

Select tomato-based pasta sauces over cream-based ones.

Take plenty of water .

Do not upsize your meal unless you are eating it with a salad.

Fast foods with relatively low saturated fat levels and added salt include

Pizzas with less meat and cheese

Grilled chicken burgers and wraps

Grilled hamburgers with lean meat, without bacon or cheese.

Grilled fish burgers.

High-sugar foods

Sugar added to foods and drinks such as soft drinks, cordials (cordials), biscuits, cakes, and confectionery is high. Sugar does not cause diabetes. Sugar added to foods can lead to weight gain. Being overweight also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the main source of sugar in Australian diets. It is well-established that sugar-sweetened beverages are associated with childhood overweight and dental decay. It is important to limit the consumption of foods and beverages with high sugar levels.

It’s okay to drink sugar-free drinks occasionally, but they are still acidic and can negatively affect dental and bone health. Try adding a lemon, lime, or an orange slice to the water for flavor.

Moderation is the key to drinking alcohol

According to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, alcoholic drinks are “occasional foods.” Alcohol contains a lot of energy (kilojoules). Moderation is key if you decide to drink alcohol.

Healthy men and women shouldn’t drink more than four standard drinks in a single day. They should also limit their alcohol consumption to no more than 10 standard drinks per week.

Alcohol is harmful to your health if you consume alcohol.

A standard drink is either 375ml of mid-strength ale, 100ml of wine, or 30ml of spirits. Consider reducing your intake if you consume more than that. This can be done by increasing the days of the week that you do not drink alcohol or by alternating your alcoholic beverages with water.

Alcohol is not recommended for children or women who are pregnant, nursing , or breastfeeding.

High-salt foods

A diet high in salt has been linked to an increased risk for hypertension. This is a risk factor known for heart disease and stroke.

Adults with normal blood pressure should consume less than 5 grams of salt (less than 1 teaspoon) per day. Most Australians consume twice as much salt each day.

Most of the salt we consume comes from processed and packaged foods that we eat on a daily basis, such as bread, meats, and soups. Reduce your salt consumption by reducing the amount of takeaway food you consume.

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