National guidelines

Australia’s national dietary guidelines suggest adults enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five food groups every day, and drink plenty of water.

This dietary pattern aims to:

  • Promote health and wellbeing
  • Reduce the risk of diet related conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of chronic disease, such as diabetes and some cancers

Benefits

Eating well is a great way to boost energy levels, reduce disease risks and make that beer belly go away. Healthy eating takes some planning, and meals that are thrown together often hide large amounts of sugar, fat and salt. So when thinking about grabbing a bite, aim to cook whole foods rather than preparing something that has had the living daylights processed out of it.

Remember, more food out of the ground and less out of a packet!

To learn more, click on the following:

Breakfast - the meal of champions

Get it right from the start. Having even a light breakfast will set the platform for a healthy eating day. Some on-the-run ideas include a small bowl of muesli with berries and full-fat milk, a wholegrain toast with avocado and fetta mash or even a small tub of yoghurt and a banana.

Fresh is best

Munch on a variety of heaps of fresh vegies and some fruit and nuts. Fresh vegetables and fruit and house powerful disease-fighting anti-oxidants and fibre, which assist in satisfying hearty appetites, while (raw) nuts contain good fats.

Eat Real Food

Try to eat food that does not come from packages, cans and tetra packs. Real food contains real nutrients and less nasties, and will keep your body fuelled for longer and your liver happier. It also avoids the added sugar, fat and salt often found in processed foods.

Hot tip: keep to the periphery of the supermarket where you’ll find all the fresh fruit & veg, dairy and meat.

Focus on sugar

Many processed foods contain added or hidden sugars (a form of carbohydrates), which will give you energy in the short-term, but leave you craving for more soon. Examples are soft drinks, alcohol, breads, pasta, cake and baked goods, chocolates, candies, jams, many cereals, canned fruit and instant sauces. Anything ‘low-fat’ will also be higher in sugar. Avoid these in favour of real food containing more protein, good fat and fibre which will give you longer lasting energy.

The fat debate

Eating too much processed saturated and hydrogenated fat can impact the ability of your cells and blood vessels to function properly. Saturated fat is found in significant amounts in animal foods (meat, dairy, eggs) but also in processed foods where you often also find hydrogenated oil.

But not all fat is to be avoided.

Unheated polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat helps reduce the risk of heart disease, which is the number one killer of Australian men. Be sure to include some healthy fat in your diet, in small quantities, from foods such as olive oil, avocado, seeds, walnuts and almonds.

Protein power

Body builders are notorious for overeating protein. Unless you’re aiming to be Mr Universe, you don’t need massive quantities; a small to medium serve at breakfast, lunch and dinner is ample for most. Choose dairy, lean meats, skinless chicken, more fish and good old hippie tucker like tofu, chick peas, lentils and beans. A handful of nuts is a good source of both protein and healthy oils.

Size matters

The amount you eat at a meal is important too. Overeating can slow you down, make you feel drowsy and force your body to stack on unnecessary weight. Food and drink you don’t burn off with physical activity is stored by your body as fat.

Hot tip: Chose to use a smaller plate or bowl, eat slowly and chew well, so you won’t miss your body telling you you’re full (Leptin and Ghrelin, the two hormones responsible for this, can be a bit slow).

Fluid fuels

Drink lots of water. Alcohol, tea and coffee may be fluids, but they’re no way to quench your thirst. Stay clear of sweetened soft drinks too, no matter your weight. Your body is made up of about 60% water – not soft drink.

Water also helps your brain, cardiovascular system and liver to work better. It is an essential part of every single cell in your body.

Decoding food labelling
  • Pay attention to the amount mentioned as ‘one serve’ – often this is much smaller than what you consider a serve, and it is better to use the ‘per 100g’ column
  • Look for foods low in saturated fat
  • Low fat foods may contain high levels of sugar and still be high calorie foods
  • Check the ‘total sugar’ contents; 5g of sugar is about one teaspoon, more than 10g of sugar per 100g is a lot
  • Don’t just look at fat, sugar and calorie information, keep an eye on salt and fibre levels too
  • More than 120mg of sodium (salt) per 100g is a lot
  • The higher the fibre content the better – but remember that dry fibre acts like a sponge, and can lead to constipation if you don’t drink enough!

A local Nutritionist or Dietitian can work with you to come up with an eating plan, based on your age, weight, health, metabolism, likes and dislikes. Ask your GP or community health centre or find one near you.

More information

Dietitians Association of Australia – 1800 812 942 www.daa.asn.au

Nutrition Australia - www.nutritionaustralia.org

Australian Government on reading Food Labels - https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/eating-well/how-understand-food-labels