The ABCD of Healthy Eating

With a myriad of information on the internet and all sorts of nutritional advice hitting you left, right and centre, it can be really confusing knowing what to eat, and how much.  To make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need for optimal health, and reduce the number of trips to your GP now, and 10 years from now, do the best for your health by making the right choices Now! Eating healthy is not hard at all and it doesn’t mean you have to say good bye to all your favourite guilty pleasures. SMALL changes here and there can make a BIG difference.

1) Firstly, why should you worry about healthy eating?

Healthy eating will help you get the right balance of vitaminsminerals, and other nutrients. Besides the obvious advantages of looking and feeling your best, healthy eating is one of the best things you do to prevent and control many health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer, to name a few. They weren’t joking when they said ‘an apple a day, keeps the doctor away’.

Furthermore, poor nutrition and overeating is the main reason behind our current obesity and diabetes epidemic. Poor nutrition is associated with serious health risks such as  impaired wound healing, higher risk of infection & impaired mental and physical function.

2) What is the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE)?

The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is the national food selection guide prepared by the Australian government to provide consumers, health and education professionals and the food industry with information about the amounts and types of food that need to be eaten each day to get enough of the nutrients essential for good health and well-being.

Just a word of warning, these guidelines are OK for most healthy people to follow. However,  if you are suffering from any health conditions like renal disease or diabetes, make sure you speak to a specialised Accredited Practising Dietitian to provide you with individualised nutrition advice.

3) What are the major food groups and why should I make sure to eat from all of them?

There are five food groups, namely:

1)       Breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles

2)      Vegetables, legumes

3)      Fruit

4)      Milk, yoghurt, cheese

5)      Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes

Each of these foods plays a role and different foods provide more of some nutrients than others. It is therefore important that you are consuming a variety of foods from each food group.

4) Tell me more about these groups and how I can include more in my diet?

a) Breads and Cereal:

›      The breads and cereal group includes wheat, maize (corn), rice, barley, sorghum, oats, rye and millet.

This group contain carbohydrate, dietary fibre and some important vitamins and minerals.

›      Most nutritious cereal foods are wholegrain. Examples of wholegrain foods are high fibre breakfast cereals, whole meal breads and pasta, crispbreads, oatmeal and brown rice

Healthy Tips to get you started!

  • Switch from white bread to multigrain bread
  • Eat wholegrain cereal for breakfast.
  • Have 5-7 serves a day.
What is a serve?
1 slice of bread 1 medium bread roll 1 cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles
1 cup porridge 1 cup breakfast cereal flakes Or ½ cup muesli






b) Vegetables and  legumes

  • These are excellent source of essential vitamins, minerals, as well as dietary fibre & carbohydrates.
  •  The goodness of vegetables may be lessened or increased by cooking.
  • Stir-frying, microwaving or steaming are ideal ways to cook vegetables.
  •  The word legumes includes lentils, beans and peas.

Healthy Tips!

  •  Enjoy a variety of vegetables everyday. Include dark green vegetables like spinach and broccoli, orange vegetables like pumpkin and carrots and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
  •  Buy vegetables in season
  •  Use frozen and canned vegetables as an alternative to fresh
  •  Eat some vegetables raw or slightly cooked for maximum nutrition
  •  Have five serves a day
What is a serve?
1 cup salad vegetables
½ cup cooked vegetables

c) Fruit

  • ›      Fruits are a good source of vitamins, including vitamin C and folate.
  • ›      Fibre is found in the skin of fruits so juices contain much lower fibre than fruit juice. Eating the fruit is therefore much better than having just the juice.
  • ›      Dried fruit also belong to this group.

Healthy Tips!

  • Eat a wide variety of fruit each week. Include apples and pears, citrus fruits, melons and berries
  • Buy fruit in season, as this is best value for money
  • Use canned fruit as a nutritious replacement
  • Dried fruit is nutritious and adds variety, but can cause tooth decay
  • Enjoy at least two serves of fruit
  •  Try to limit fruit juice to one serve
What is a serve?
1 medium size fruit eg apple, pear, orange
½ cup fruit juice
Dried fruit eg 5 apricot pieces

d) Milk, Yoghurt and Cheese

  • ›      Excellent source of calcium, very few other foods contain as much of this
  •       Good for stronger bones and teeth
  • ›       Milk can be fresh, fried, evaporated or long-life
  • ›      The fat content of your diet can be increased if you choose full cream products
  • ›      For most people, five years and older, best choices are low fat

Healthy Tips!

  • Soft cheeses like cottage cheese and ricotta are too low in calcium so cannot be counted as a serve
  • Choose reduced fat varieties
  • If you don’t like drinking milk or eating yoghurt or cheese, try adding it to foods when cooking
  • Can also have fortified soy milk, almonds, sardines or pink salmon with bones
  • Have two to three serves each day
What is a serve?
250ml milk
2 slices of cheese
1 tub of yoghurt (200g)
250ml custard

e) Meat, fish and poulty

  • ›      Beef, lamb, fish, poultry, eggs, shellfish, nuts and legumes are included in this group.
  • ›      All are excellent sources of protein, iron, niacin and vitamin B12
  • ›      Best sources of iron are beef and lamb
  • ›      Enjoy lean red meat three or four times a week.

Healthy tips!

  • Have 1 serve of meat a day.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat rather than sausages and processed meat
  • Try to eat one or two fish meals a week.
What is a serve?
Meat – the size of your palm
2 small eggs
½ cup cooked lentils
Water – drink up!
  • Water is the best drink to quench your thirst.
  • ›For good health, make sure you are drinking at least 8 glasses of water everyday.
  • ›You will need more during physical activity and in hot weather.
  • ›All fluids contribute to this requirement (except for alcoholic drinks).
 4) How about foods that do not fit into the five groups?

These foods are called extra foods and are foods that do not fit into the five groups

  • ›      They are not essential to provide the nutrients the body needs
  • ›      Some contain too much added fat, salt and sugars & contribute large amounts of energy
  • ›      Can be added to the enjoyment of eating a healthy diet!


5) Where can I download the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating booklet?

Right here!

7) How do I know how well I am doing and where I need to improve? 

To assess your current diet and where you need to improve, take this quick quiz produced by the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) to find out!

That’s healthy eating in a nutshell. Now that you have all the right information, there is no need to wait longer. Make the switch today. Start with small changes that you can make to your diet and build up gradually.

What are 3 changes you can make most easily to eat in a healthier way?

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