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Nutrition Benchmarks

 fruit platter

National recommendations and guidelines

Healthy eating is a habit. Like all habits, it can take some time and effort to get started but, once set, it can last a lifetime. One of the best things we can do for our children is to help and encourage them to make healthy eating choices at home, at school and when they’re out and about.

What is healthy eating?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013) provide up-to-date advice about the amount and kinds of foods and drinks we need regularly for health and general well-being.

The guidelines recommend that children and young people eat plenty of ‘plant’ foods, such as vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains (mostly whole grain).

They also recommend eating lean animal foods and reduced fat dairy products, drinking plenty of water, limiting the intake of fat (especially saturated fat), and choosing low salt foods.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines website (opens new window) provides specific advice about the number of serves needed every day from each of the five food groups, based on a person’s age and sex.

The key point it makes is the importance of eating a variety of foods, in the right proportions, from each of the food groups:

  • bread and cereals, including rice, pasta and noodles and other grain products
  • vegetables and legumes
  • fruit
  • milk, yoghurt and cheese
  • meat and meat alternatives, such as fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes

About two-thirds of the food we eat should come from the first two groups: breads and cereals and vegetables and legumes. It pays to learn about each of these food groups so you can decide what's best for your child. The minimum number of recommended daily serves from each food group is set out in the table below.

Recommended Serves per Day

 

Age

(years)

Fruit

(serves/day)

Vegetables

(serves/day)

Grains

(serves/day)

Meats

(serves/day)

Dairy

(serves/day)

 

girls

boys

girls

boys

girls

boys

girls

boys

girls

boys

2-3

1

1

4

4

1

1

4-8

4

4

2

9-11

2

2

5

5

4

5

3

12-13

2

2

5

5

6

14-18

2

2

5

7

7

 

Examples of what a serve means for each food group:

  • 1 serve bread or cereal = 1 slice of bread, ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, noodles or cooked porridge, 2/cup wheat cereal flakes
  • 1 serve vegies and legumes = ½ cup cooked vegies, ½ medium potato, 1 tomato, ½ cup of sweet corn, 1 cup salad or  ½ cup cooked legumes (beans, peas or lentils)
  • 1 serve fruit = 1 medium or 2 small pieces, 1 cup diced or canned fruit (no added sugar)
  • 1 serve milk, yoghurt and cheese = 1 cup (250ml) milk, 3/4 cup (200g) yoghurt, 2 slices (40g) cheese
  • 1 serve meat or alternatives = 65g cooked meats such as veal, kangaroo, pork or beef, 80g chicken or turkey meats, 100g cooked fish fillet, 2 small eggs, 1 cup cooked legumes (beans, peas or lentils)

Foods to limit - Discretionary choices

Foods to limit are foods high in saturated fat, salt and added sugars. These include biscuits, cakes, desserts, pastries, soft drinks and other fatty, sugary and salty snack foods, such as crisps, pies, pasties, sausage rolls and other takeaways, lollies and chocolates. These foods have low nutritional value and are high in energy (kilojoules). These foods should be eaten only sometimes and in small amounts.