Start To Eat Healthier
Healthy eating starts with healthy food choices. You don’t need to be a chef to create nutritious, heart-healthy meals your family will love. Learn what to look for at the grocery store, restaurants, your workplace and any eating occasion.
Let food be the medicine, the medicine be the food
Healthy eating patterns don't focus on one type of food or one type of nutrient to promote good health. It has more to do with a combination of foods, chosen regularly, over time. This style of eating is naturally low in saturated and trans fats, salt and added sugars, and rich in wholegrains, fibre, antioxidants and unsaturated fats.
Getting the Portion Size Right
You need a balanced diet for your organs and tissues to work effectively. Without it, your body is more prone to disease, infection, fatigue, and poor performance.
It is important for weight control and essential for weight loss to think about portion size. We tend to ignore our bodies signals of hunger and satiety (satisfaction) until we’ve eaten too much and then we are overfull.
Many people say they rarely feel hungry. Learn to recognise how it feels to be ‘peckish’, ‘hungry’, ‘ravenous’, or ‘satisfied’, ‘full’ and ‘stuffed’. Perhaps imagine your stomach as a petrol tank with a gauge and aim for somewhere between quarter and half full. When you eat, think first about how much you really need to feel satisfied and how far away the next meal or snack is.
Eat slowly, ‘mindfully’ chewing properly and without distractions like TV and give your body time to give you feedback. Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls when you’re chewing, or sip water in between swallows to slow your pace. Pace yourself with a ‘slow’ eater or even the clock. Concentrate on how a food looks, smells, tastes and feels in your mouth and stomach. By eating ‘mindfully’, you will enjoy food more and end up needing less to feel satisfied.
To get the proper nutrition from your diet, you should consume the majority of your daily calories in
• fresh vegetables
• fresh whole fruits
• grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
• lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
• milk, yoghurt cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat
How Much Water do you Need?
There is no single recommended amount of water, as a person’s requirements at any one time will vary depending on climate, physical activity, and individual bodies. The following intakes can however be used as a general guide: about 4-5 glasses of fluids a day for children up to 8 years, about 6-8 glasses for adolescents, 8 glasses for women (9 glasses during pregnancy and lactation) and about 10 glasses for men. These amounts include fluid from all sources including all hot and cold drinks, but water is the best.
How Much Unsaturated Spreads and Oils can I Include in my Diet?
A ‘serve’ of foods that provide unsaturated fat such as unsaturated margarine or oil, nuts and seeds is 10g (such as two teaspoons of margarine or oil). However, these foods are high in kilojoules so remember to always keep quantities small, especially if aiming to lose weight. Spread unsaturated margarine, nut pastes and avocado thinly. Use just 1 teaspoon (measured not poured) per person in cooking and think of avocado, seeds and nuts as sprinkles, garnishes or a snack in small quantities.
Mixed foods and meals can still be classified into the five food groups if you know what different foods they are made from. For example, a beef salad sandwich might be made up of two serves of bread, ½ a serve of meat, ½ a serve of tomato, ½ a serve of margarine and ¼ of a serve of salad vegetables. Avoid consumption of foods that provide little or no nutritional value such as: bacon, sausages, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, energy drinks, fruit drinks, ice cream, pizza, sports drinks and sodas.
Fruit, Vegetables and Wholegrains
These foods are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and wholegrains is consistently linked to people having healthier hearts. And research shows there is a link between eating them and having a lower risk of heart disease. Choose fruits and vegtables that are in season in your area. They’re fresher and provide the most nutrients.
Aim to eat at least 3 -5 serves of vegetables and up to 2 serves of fruit every day.
Fruit - A serve of fruit is approximately 80g
• 1 small piece - Apple, banana, orange, kiwi fruit or pear
• 1/2 grapefruit
• 2 small pieces - Apricots, plums
• 1 cup - Diced/canned fruit (no syrup)
• ½ cup (125 ml) - Juice (have only occasionally)
• 30 g (small handful) - Dried fruit (have only occasionally)
Important: Consuming too much fruit can lead to health problems for some individuals. Additionally, fruits (like any other food) can be eaten to the point of caloric excess and lead to weight gain over time.
Eat fruits as a whole, although juicing is a popular trend, it's not an ideal way to get your daily dose of fruit.
Vegetables and Legumes / Beans - A serve is approximately 75g
• ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (for example, broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbages, cauliflower, kale, carrots, turnip or pumpkin)
• ½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (preferably with no added salt)
• 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables (Lettuce, silverbeet, spinach, snow peas)
• ½ cup sweet corn
• ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro or cassava)
• 1 medium tomato
• Other vegetables: celery, zucchini, squash, capsicum, eggplant, mushrooms, cucumber, okra, green peas, green beans
It is important to eat each day a variety of different types of vegetables from each of the main vegetable groups. This will ensure you are eating a colourful range and variety of vegetables which will provide you with many of the health promoting benefits.
Starchy vegetables such as sweet potato, taro, cassava or sweet corn should form only part of your daily vegetable intake. This is because they are higher in energy (kilojoules) than other vegetables and while these foods are great sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre, they do raise blood glucose. The best choices such as Parsnip, Plantain, Potato, Pumpkin, Acorn squas, Butternut squash, Green Peas, Corn… do not have added fats, sugar or sodium.
Avoid potatoes in form of hot chips and crisps that they are high in kilojoules, added fat and added salt.
Grains include wheat, corn (maize), rice, barley, oats, rye, millet, and quinoa. These grains can be eaten whole or processed into products like couscous (wheat) and polenta (maize). They can also be ground to be used to make grain foods like bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, and noodles.
Whole grain foods are healthier than white or refined grain foods. Because wholegrain cereals include more of the natural grain, they have more of their nutrients, like dietary fibre, B vitamins, vitamin E and healthy fats.
For all cereals and grains, read the ingredient list and look for the following sources of whole grains as the first ingredient. Be aware that some foods only contain a small amount of whole grain but will say it contains whole grain on the front of the packet. Some ‘multigrain’ breads are made with white flour and various whole grains added. ‘Wholemeal wholegrain’ bread is made with wholemeal flour plus whole grains and has more fibre and nutrients than wholemeal, wholegrain or white breads.
How much to eat? Most adults should aim for total of 6oz / 170g wholegrains per day.
A Serve of Wholegrain (cereal) foods is 500 kJ (120 kcal) which is
• Wholegrain bread 1 slice (40 g)
• Wholegrain bread roll or flatbread 1 medium (40g)
• Wholegrain rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, bulgur or quinoa ½ cup (75–120g)
• Cooked porridge ½ cup (120g)
• Wheat cereal flakes 2/3 cup (30g)
• Muesli ¼ cup (30g)
• Crispbreads 3 (35g)
Lean Meat and Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Nuts, Seeds and Legumes/Beans
How much to eat? The Guidelines recommend that you eat 1-3 serves of foods from this food group a day, depending on your age. During pregnancy, 3-4 serves a day are recommended. Variety is the key.
Lean red meat provides a very good source of nutrients, however consumption of greater than 100/120g per day of red meat, which is more than double the recommended amount, is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer and renal cancer. So, remember to also eat other foods from this food group. Non-meat options such as legumes provide many of the same nutrients as meats, poultry, fish and eggs. In fact, nuts and seeds may help reduce the risk of heart disease and are not associated with weight gain if total energy intake (kilojoules) is controlled.
There are also many benefits in eating fish. Consumption of fish more than once a week is associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia in older adults. Consuming fish at least twice a week has even further benefits with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and age-related macular degeneration in the eyes. Aim for about 2 serves of fish a week, preferable oily fish.
A Standard Serve is (500 – 600kJ)/(120 - 143kcal)
• 65g cooked lean red meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork or goat (about 90-100g raw)
• 80g cooked lean poultry such as chicken or turkey (100g raw)
• 100g cooked fish fillet (about 115g raw) or one small can of fish
• 2 large (120g) eggs
• 1 cup (150g) cooked or canned legumes/beans such as lentils, chick peas or split peas (preferably with no added salt)
• 170g tofu
• 30g nuts, seeds, peanut or almond butter or tahini or other nut or seed paste (no added salt) (Only to be used occasionally as a substitute for other foods in the group : this amount for nuts and seeds gives approximately the same amount of energy as the other foods in this group but will provide less protein, iron or zinc).
Dairy Products and Alternatives
How much to eat? Most adults should aim for 2 serves of low fat dairy products conumed in moderation. Cheese is usually high in kilojoules, saturated fat and salt and is best limited to 2-3 times a week. However, some cheeses also have reduced levels of fat and salt.
A Standard Serve is (500 – 600 kJ)/(120 - 143 kcal)
• 1 cup (200ml) fresh, UHT long life, reconstituted powdered milk or buttermilk
• 2 slices (40g) or 4 x 3 x 2cm cube (40g) of hard cheese
• ½ cup (120g) ricotta cheese
• ¾ cup (200g) plain yoghurt
• 1 cup (250ml) soy, rice or nut drink
If you do not eat any foods from this group, try the following foods, which contain about the same amount of calcium as a serve of milk, yoghurt, cheese or alternatives (note: the kilojoule content of some of these serves (especially nuts) is higher so watch this if trying to lose weight).
• 100g almonds with skin
• 60g sardines, canned in water
• ½ cup (100g) canned pink salmon with bones
• 100g firm tofu (check the label as calcium levels vary)
• Other alternatives rich in Calcium (Kale, Bok Choi, Broccoli, Collard Greens, Rhubarb, Spinach, Navy Beans, Swiss Chard, Stewed Tomatoes, Pinto Beans, 6 Brazil Nuts)
Daily Food Intake Plan
Swap processed food choices for foods from the five food groups listed above
Make breads or grains part of at least two meals most days.
Include vegetables at least twice a day, particularly important if you would like to lose weight
Vegetables should take up at least one third of meals and half the meal if you are trying to lose weight. So, it’s important to serve vegetables or salad as a side dish even when eating meals like pasta, lasagne or risotto. By including more vegetables in your meals, serves of other foods will be smaller and the overall meal will have fewer kilojoules.
Include lean meat or meat alternative as part of at least one meal a day.
Add fruit to at least two meals or use as snacks or dessert.
Include a serve of low fat milk, yoghurt or cheese at least in two meals or snacks.
It’s Also Good for your Health to Include
Fish meals at least twice a week.
Meals with legumes every week.
A wide variety of different coloured vegetables every day.