The following tips are designed to help you choose healthier options when preparing meals and snacks.
Fruit & vegetables
- Choose any vegetables and fruit, whether fresh, frozen or canned.
- Vegetables in cans or jars are convenient options to have in the cupboard, such as artichoke hearts, asparagus, bamboo shoots, beetroot, carrots, corn kernels, gherkins, mushrooms, olives, peas, tomatoes and water chestnuts. Frozen vegetables are also a good stand by to have and are just as good as fresh.
- When shopping, avoid vegetables preserved in brine (contains added salt) or butter sauce and, where available, choose foods labelled ‘no added salt’, ‘low salt’ or ‘reduced salt’ varieties or those with the Heart Foundation Tick.
- Dried fruit and fruit canned or bottled in unsweetened or natural juice are handy to use for desserts, smoothies, snacks and as a topping for breakfast cereals.
- Try to eat at least two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables a day. For more information about what makes a serve, visit: www.gofor2and5.com.au (new window)
Dried and canned legumes
- Look for chickpeas, lentils, split peas, black beans, kidney beans, soybeans, cannellini beans, Mexican chilli beans, four-bean mix and baked beans.
- Dried, canned and vacuum-sealed legumes are all good choices – just choose ‘no added salt’, ‘low salt’ or ‘reduced salt’ varieties or those with the Heart Foundation Tick.
- The Heart Foundation recommends incorporating legumes and pulses into at least two meals a week.
Nuts and seeds
- Choose any plain, unsalted nuts and store them in an airtight container after opening.
- Seeds (such as sesame seeds and sunflower seeds) make great toppings on breakfast cereals. You can also try toasting them and sprinkling over vegetables or salad for added flavour and crunch.
Grains and cereals
- Choosing wholegrain or wholemeal varieties adds dietary fibre to your diet.
- Pasta – fresh or dried – are good choices
- Noodles – all varieties are good to use (cellophane, rice, hokkien, udon, egg and soba).
- Rice – all varieties are good choices (white, brown, long or short grain, arborio, jasmine, basmati and wild)
- Grains (rolled oats, pearl barley, rye, bran, couscous, cornmeal, sago, tapioca, buckwheat and bulgar)
- Flours (plain high-fibre white, wholemeal, self-raising, rice, cornflour)
- Look for breakfast cereals that contain three grams or more of dietary fibre per serve
Fish and seafood
- Fresh fish or shellfish - cook straight away or store in the freezer in sealed plastic bags and use within three months
- Shell fish and oily fish (fresh, frozen or canned) are good choices as they are high in marine omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce your risk of heart disease. Examples of oily fish include Atlantic and Australian salmon, blue-eyed trevalla, blue mackerel and gemfish.
- Other fish (such as barramundi, bream and flathead) and seafood (such as arrow squid, scallops and mussels) are also good sources of marine-based omega-3.
- All canned fish (such as salmon, sardines, herring, kipper fillets and tuna) are good sources of marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, but fish in brine is higher in sodium (salt), so choose fish in spring water or oil.
- Fish canned in canola oil is also high in plant plant alpha-linolenic fatty acid, an essential omega-3 fat, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- The Australian Dietary Guidelines advise eating one or two fish meals per week. Regarding mercury in fish, it is strongly advised that everyone follows the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) ‘Advice on Fish Consumption’, which has been specifically developed for the Australian population and reflects local knowledge of our diets, the fish we eat and their mercury content.
Number of serves of different types of fish that be can safely consumed
Pregnant women and women planning pregnancy
Children (up to 6 years)
Rest of the population
|1 serve equals 150 grams#
||1 serve equals 75 grams#
||1 serve equals 150 grams#
|2 – 3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not listed below
||2 – 3 serves per week of any fish and seafood not listed below
|1 serve per week of Orange Roughy (Sea Perch) or Catfish and no other fish that week
||1 serve per week of Shark (Flake) or Billfish (Swordfish / Broadbill and Marlin) and no other fish that week
|1 serve per fortnight of Shark (Flake) or Billfish (Swordfish / Broadbill and Marlin) and no other fish that fortnight
# A 150 gram serve for adults and older children is equivalent to approximately two frozen crumbed fish portions. A 75 gram serve for children is approximately three fish fingers (Hake or Hoki is used in fish fingers). Canned fish is sold in various sizes; for example, the snack size cans of tuna are approximately 95 grams.
Source: FSANZ – Mercury in Fish. Available at: Food Standards Australia New Zealand (new window)
Meat and poultry
- Red meat is particularly rich in iron, zinc and vitamin B12.
- White meat and poultry also contain these nutrients, but in smaller amounts.
- Both red and white meat are excellent sources of protein.
- Choose lean or trimmed varieties of red meat and white meat and skinless poultry.
- Try to limit processed fatty meats (such as sausages) and delicatessen meats (such as salami) as these are usually high in fat (particularly saturated fat) and sodium (salt).
- Where possible, select cuts of meat displaying the Heart Foundation Tick.
- Choose reduced, low or no fat dairy products* such as milk, yoghurt (plain or fruit flavoured), custard, hard, sliced or grated cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, fat feta and light cream cheese.
- Look for low or reduced fat ice-cream, frozen yoghurt and soy-based frozen desserts containing less than 5% fat. Those with the Heart Foundation Tick not only contain less fat, but also provide source of calcium and place strict limits on kilojoules. A healthy balanced diet can include a serve of plain low or reduced fat ice-cream (1½ scoops or 50 grams) up to three times a week.
- Reduced fat ricotta cheese whipped with a little icing sugar, fruit or low or reduced fat milk is a good substitute for cream.
* Children under two years of age need full cream milk and dairy products for extra energy (See the National Health and Medical Research Council Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2003). After they turn two, you can gradually introduce children to reduced-fat milk and dairy products. Reduced-fat dairy products will be appropriate for most children aged two or older.
- Eggs are a versatile and highly nutritious food. They contain good quality protein, healthy fats (including omega-3 fats) and eleven different vitamins and minerals.
- All fresh hen eggs produced in Australia are eligible for the Heart Foundation Tick.
- The Heart Foundation advises that having six eggs (48g-50g eggs) each week, as part of a healthy balanced diet low in saturated fat, will not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- As a replacement for butter, use margarines and spreads made from canola, sunflower or olive oil and dairy blends that have the Heart Foundation Tick.
- Choose ‘reduced salt’ liquid stocks, stock cubes or stock powders (such as reduced salt vegetable, beef, chicken or fish stock).
Reduced fat evaporated milk and light coconut milk
- These make a great substitute for cream and coconut milk or coconut cream, which can substantially reduce the saturated fat content of a recipe.
- Use a variety of polyunsaturated oils (such as safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean and grapeseed oils) and monounsaturated oils (such as canola, olive, macadamia, and peanut oils) in your cooking.
- Canola and soybean oils are high in plant alpha-linolenic fatty acid, an essential omega-3 fat, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Use salad dressings and mayonnaise made from oils such as canola, sunflower, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut oils.
- Fat-free and reduced-fat dressings are also available and worth choosing.
Sauces and condiments
- Limit high salt sauces and condiments, such as black bean, hoi sin, oyster, fish, Worcestershire, barbecue, tomato and Tabasco.
- Look for ‘reduced salt’ or ‘no added salt’ tomato sauces, pastes, purees and pasta sauces and ‘reduced salt’ soy sauce.
- Citrus juices (lemon, lime, orange) are good to use.
- Vinegars (white, brown, rice, balsamic) are good to use.
- Use condiments like seeded mustard, English mustard, horseradish, wasabi, mint jelly, chutney and relish.
- Remember to refrigerate sauces and condiments after opening.
Herbs and spices
- Herbs and spices (fresh or dried) (such as basil, cayenne pepper, chilli, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, curry, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, mint, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, saffron, thyme and turmeric) add flavour to meals instead of using salt. The list is endless - choose and use as desired.
- When using dried herbs, avoid those labelled “seasoning”, as they contain salt.
The Heart Foundation Tick
One of the easiest ways to make your meals and snacks that you prepare healthier is by substituting your regular ingredients for those with the Heart Foundation Tick of approval.
Foods with the Heart Foundation Tick have the most rigorous independent auditing in Australia, so you can trust they are genuinely healthier choices in each food category.
With more than 1,200 foods across more than 50 supermarket categories, there is bound to be a healthier alternative with the Heart Foundation Tick.
For more information about the Heart Foundation Tick visit: Heart Foundation website (new window) or call the Heart Foundation’s Health Information Service on 1300 36 27 87.