The best way to succeed at healthy eating is through choosing a range of different foods from the five food groups every day. You may have seen the food groups on the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating poster. The foods are grouped together that have similar nutrients, so eating a variety of foods means your body will receive all the different nutrients it needs to be healthy. The Australian Dietary Guidelines tells you the amount of each food group you should have depending on age, sex and activity level. This is because your body needs different amounts of each food group at different times of your life and at different exercise levels.
5 Servings of Vegetables and Legumes/Beans
Why eat vegetables?
- Vegetables are low in energy, and high in fiber for a healthy digestive system and full of nutrients that will help your body to function well. Eating many different colored vegetables means getting a wide variety of nutrients.
What is 1 serving?
Avoid Yogurts with more than 30grams of sugar.
- ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (broccoli, spinach, carrot, pumpkin).
- ½ cup beans, peas, lentils (no canned foods w/ more than 10 grams of sodium).
- 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables.
- ½ cup corn.
- ½ medium potato, sweet potato, taro, cassava.
- 1 tomato (medium-size).
- 2 cucumbers
2 Servings of Fruit
Why eat fruit?
- Fruits are high in fibre, high in water and most are low in energy. Eating whole fruits rather than dried fruit or drinking fruit juice is better for your teeth and body. Eating whole fruit means your body won’t miss out on any nutrients that are lost in food processing.
What is 1 serving?
- 1 medium apple, banana, orange, pear.
- 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits, plums, mangos.
- Eat occasionally:
- 8-10 glasses of water daily
- (cut back on juices unless you make your own without sugar)
- 30g dried fruit (eg. 4 dried apricot halves, 1 ½ tablespoons sultanas).
5 Serves of Grain/Cereal Foods
Why eat grains?
- Grain foods contain carbohydrates for energy, protein which makes up our muscles and skin, fibre, and many other nutrients for a healthy body. Eat mostly whole grains (wholemeal, and grain varieties) for a healthy digestive system.
- Though, keep in mind that some wheat breads like Wonder brand may use wheats but also use added preservatives to trick buyers so their bread tastes satisfactory.
What is 1 serving?
- 1 slice of bread (40g).
- ½ medium bread roll/flat bread (40g).
- ½ cup (75-120g) cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, bulgur, quinoa.
- ½ cup (120g) cooked porridge.
- ⅔ (30g) wheat cereal flakes.
- ¼ cup (30g) muesli.
- 3 (35g) crispbreads.
- 1 (60g) crumpet.
- 1 small (35g) English muffin or scone.
2 ½ Serves of Lean Meats, Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Tofu, Nuts, Seeds and Legumes/Beans
Why eat meats and alternatives?
- Meats and alternatives are a great source of protein and many other nutrients like iron. Iron is important for growing bodies, athletes and women who are menstruating.
What is 1 serve?
- 65g cooked lean meats (beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat, kangaroo from 90-100g raw) [Less than 455g per week to reduce risk of getting some types of cancer].
- 80g cooked lean poultry (chicken or turkey from 100g raw).
- 100g cooked fish fillet (from 115g raw) or one small can of fish (100g).
- 2 large (120g eggs).
- 1 cup (150g) cooked/canned legumes/beans (eg. lentils, chick peas or split peas with no added salt).
- 170g tofu.
- 30g nuts, seeds, nut/seed paste eg. peanut or almond butter or tahini (no added salt).
3 ½ Serves of Milk, Yoghurt, Cheese and/or Alternatives
Why eat dairy and alternatives?
- This food group is high in protein and full of nutrients such as calcium. Calcium is important for healthy growing bones.
What is 1 serve?
- 1 cup (250ml) fresh, UHT long life, reconstituted powdered milk or buttermilk.
- ½ cup (120ml) evaporated milk.
- 2 slices/ 4x3x2cm cube (40g) hard cheese eg. cheddar.
- ½ cup (120g) ricotta cheese.
- ¾ cup (200g) yoghurt.
- 1 cup (250ml) soy, rice or other cereal drink with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml.
What about all the other foods?
- You will notice a lot of foods that we eat are not part of the five food groups, like chocolate, jam, sausages, and hot potato chips. This is because they are part of a different category called discretionary choices, which the body does not need to be healthy. These foods are often high in fat, sugar, salt or alcohol and low in fibre. They can be considered “extra foods” and girls aged 12-13 years are recommended 0-2 ½ serves per day. This can be tricky when the serve sizes can be quite small, like ½ a chocolate bar, one tablespoon of jam, two thin sausages and 12 hot potato chips.
What about nuts?
- Girls 12-13 years old are also allowed 1 ½ serves of unsaturated spreads or oils and nuts or seeds as part of a daily healthy diet on top of the five food group serves. Although they are high in fat, so you might think they could be part of the discretionary choices, the fats from nuts and seeds are healthy for your body. This includes oils like olive oil or olive-based margarines, and nuts and seeds like peanuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds. One serve is about ten almonds and 7g of oil or 10g of peanut butter. Like the discretionary choices, the serving sizes are small because these foods are high in energy so it’s easy to eat more than you need.
What if I am tall or very active?
- Adolescents who are taller or more active will also have greater energy needs and are allowed extra serves from the five food groups or discretionary choices.
- For further information and activities see www.eatforhealth.gov.au
- Brown, J. E., Isaacs, J. S., Krinke, B., Lechtenberg, E., Murtaugh, M. A., Sharbaugh, C., Splett, P. L., Stang, J., & Woolridge, N. H. (2011). (2011). Nutrition through the life cycle (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.
- National Health and Medical Research Council. (n.d.a.). Australian dietary guidelines summary [Brochure]. Retrieved from https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/the_guidelines/n55a_australian_dietary_guidelines_summary_131014.pdf
- National Health and Medical Research Council. (n.d.b.). The five food groups. Retrieved from http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/five-food-groups
- Wahlqvist, M. L. (Ed.). (2011). Food and nutrition. Food and health systems in Australia and New Zealand (3rd ed.). Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin.