A healthy diet should include a good variety of nutritious foods. These include breads, pastas, fruits and vegetables. Eating breakfast is also an important part of a healthy diet. Keep fat and salt intake low and eat foods rich in calcium and iron. A good balance between exercise and food intake is important to maintain a healthy body weight.
A healthy diet should include a good variety of nutritious foods. These include breads, pastas, fruits and vegetables. Eating breakfast is also an important part of a healthy diet.
Healthy diets contain a variety of foods
In general, we should all drink adequate amounts of water and eat:
- A wide variety of nutritious foods
- Plenty of breads and cereals (particularly wholegrain), fruit, vegetables and legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils and red kidney beans)
- Low-salt foods, and use salt sparingly
- Small amounts of foods which contain added sugars.
Physical activity and healthy eating
A good balance between exercise and food intake is important, as this helps to maintain a healthy body weight. About 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking, is recommended every day.
Keep fat to a minimum
Adult diets should be low in fat, especially saturated fat. Saturated fat, which is the predominant fat in animal products, fried foods, chocolate, cakes and biscuits, is more easily deposited as fat tissue than unsaturated fat. Saturated fat can also be converted into cholesterol and cause blood cholesterol levels to rise.
Small amounts of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may have some health benefits when they are part of a healthy diet. Monounsaturated fats are found in nuts, olive oil and avocados, and may help to lower the bad type of cholesterol. Polyunsaturated fats are generally thought to lower blood cholesterol levels. Polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, nuts and seeds, are thought to have an anti-clotting effect on blood, to reduce the risk of heart disease and to possibly lower blood pressure.
Eat less high-kilojoule foods
The total amount of energy-dense (high-kilojoule) foods you eat may be as important as the total amount of fat in your diet. To reduce the energy density of your diet, you need to increase the amount of plant foods, such as wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables that you eat. This will provide essential nutrients, help to make you feel ‘full’ and also reduce the amount of fat in your diet.
Eat foods rich in calcium and iron
It is important for all Australians to eat foods which contain iron and calcium. In particular:
- Calcium – is important for infants, women and girls for bone health.
- Iron – is important for women, girls, vegetarians and athletes to reduce the risk of anaemia.
Drink alcohol in moderation
A healthy diet can include a moderate amount of alcohol (men should drink less than two standard drinks per day and women less than one standard drink per day). One standard drink is 375 ml mid-strength beer, 100 ml wine or 30 ml spirits. Alcohol should not be given to children.
Healthy diets for babies and children
Follow these guidelines to help encourage a healthy diet for your infant or child:
- Babies – encourage your baby to breastfeed for the first year of life. In most cases, breastfeeding should be the only source of food in the first six months. If you use formula, be careful not to overfeed or underfeed your baby.
- Sugar – children should eat only a small amount of foods that contain sugar.
- Low-fat diets – these are not appropriate for infants and young children under two years of age. A diet low in fat, especially saturated fat, may be considered for older children.
- Drinks – infants and children should be encouraged to choose water as their preferred drink.
Don’t let children skip breakfast
Children who skip breakfast generally have poorer nutrition. Their diets contain less:
- Dietary fibre
- Vitamins such as riboflavin and niacin.
Tips for healthy breakfasts
Here are some easy-to-prepare, healthy breakfast ideas:
- Fresh fruit with wholegrain breakfast cereal and reduced fat milk. Toast with a thin spread of margarine (polyunsaturated or monounsaturated)
- Toast with cheese and tomato. Hot or cold reduced fat milk
- Rolled oats made with quick oats, Add sultanas and reduced fat milk. Toast with a thin spread of margarine (polyunsaturated or monounsaturated). Orange juice
- Baked beans on toast. Orange juice
- Fruit or plain yoghurt with fruit.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Dietitians Association of Australia Tel. 1800 812 942
- Nutrition Australia Tel. (03) 8431 5800
- Department of Health and Ageing Tel. 1800 020 103
Things to remember
- A wide variety of foods is important for good health.
- Calcium and iron are important nutrients in our diets.
- Infants and young children should not be placed on low-fat diets.
- Encourage infants and children to choose water as their preferred drink.
- Children will have better nutrition and do better at school if they eat breakfast.
- Be physically active
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Deakin University - School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences
Last reviewed: June 2012
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