Include the five food groups in your diet
It’s not hard to include foods from the five food groups into snacks and meals. Some suggestions include:
Vegetables and legumes – raw or cooked vegetables can be used as a snack food or as a part of lunch and dinner. Salad vegetables can be used as a sandwich filling. Vegetable soup can make a healthy lunch. Stir-fries, vegetable patties and vegetable curries make nutritious evening meals. Try raw vegetables like carrot and celery sticks for a snack ‘on the run’.
Fruit – this is easy to carry as a snack and can be included in most meals. For example, try a banana with your breakfast cereal, an apple for morning tea and add some berries in your yoghurt for an afternoon snack. Fresh whole fruit is recommended over fruit juice and dried fruit. Fruit juice contains less fibre than fresh fruit and both fruit juice and dried fruit, and are more concentrated sources of sugar and energy. Dried fruit can also stick to teeth, which can increase the risk of dental caries.
Bread, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles – add rice, pasta or noodles to serves of protein and vegetables for an all-round meal. There are many varieties of these to try. Where possible, try to use whole grains in breads and cereals.
Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes and tofu – these can all provide protein. It’s easy to include a mixture of protein into snacks and meals. Try adding lean meat to your sandwich or have a handful of nuts as a snack. You can also add legumes to soups or stews for an evening meal.
Milk, yoghurt and cheese – try adding yogurt to breakfast cereal with milk, or using cottage cheese as a sandwich filling. Shavings of parmesan or cheddar can be used to top steamed vegetables or a salad. Use mostly reduced fat products.
Small allowance for healthy fats
Unsaturated fats are an important part of a healthy diet. The two main types of unsaturated fats are monounsaturated fats (found in olive and canola oil, avocados, cashews and almonds) and polyunsaturated fats like omega-3 fats (found in oily fish) and omega-6 fats (found in safflower and soybean oil and Brazil nuts). These fats can help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels when they replace saturated fats in the diet. The Australian Dietary Guidelines include a small allowance for healthy fats each day (around 1–2 tablespoons for adults and less for children). The best way to include healthy fats in your diet is to replace saturated fat that you may currently be eating (such as butter and cream) with a healthier, unsaturated fat option (such as polyunsaturated margarine or olive oil).
Things to remember
Eating a wide variety of healthy foods promotes good health and helps to protect against chronic disease.
Eating a varied, well-balanced diet means eating a variety of foods from each of the five food groups daily, in the recommended amounts.
It is also important to choose a variety of foods from within each food group.