Healthy Eating

People have different ideas about what healthy eating means, but there are some universal truths that apply to us all. One of the most important is to think about good food as food that not only looks and tastes good, but is also good for you. In Victoria, we are spoilt for choice with plenty of great produce and good food and we should make the most of this by eating a variety of foods every single day. Fresh fruit and vegetables are a key part of any healthy diet and have lots of benefits, including protection from heart and blood vessel disease and some cancers.

Explore this section to find out more about how to eat well, as well as some handy tips especially for children, teenagers, adults and seniors.

Where we refer to ‘discretionary’ foods and drinks, we mean those that are usually high in energy but low in nutrients. These foods are not necessary to provide the nutrients the body needs and should only be consumed sometimes in small amounts by physically active people. Examples include most sweet biscuits, cakes, desserts and pastries; processed meats and sausages; ice-cream and other ice confections; confectionary and chocolate; savoury pastries and pies; hamburgers; commercially fried foods; potato chips, crisps and other fatty or salty snack foods; snack bars; cream, butter and spreads that are high in saturated fat; sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, sports and energy drinks and alcoholic drinks.

Children

Children are busily growing and learning about the world around
them every single day. Give them the best start to life by helping
them appreciate lots of different healthy foods.

You can do this by:

  • Eating healthily. We are our children’s most important role models, so if you’re not eating your vegetables, you can’t expect them too, either.
  • Eat together. Food can be a great social event and sitting down together teaches our children about the value of enjoying a good meal with friends and family.
  • Eat the same. Separate meals are time consuming and unnecessary.
  • Use colour. Children love vibrant, diverse colours on their plate. You can also get creative and make pictures – making them laugh and have fun with their food.
  • Show them where food comes from. Have a garden in your backyard or visit a nearby garden or farm so that your children don’t miss out on gaining important knowledge about the connections that occur from farm to fork.
  • Be savvy about the products you by for children. We are all exposed to food marketing, and it works. Read food labels to help choose the “true” best option for your child.
  • Provide plenty of fruits and vegetables. They provide the ideal healthy snack and are environmentally friendly – just think, a banana comes in its own wrapper, so too does an orange and a mandarin, and all fruit peels are totally recyclable. An important point for today’s socially conscious kid!

With their growing bodies children particularly need to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. They:

  • Contain many vitamins and minerals that are essential for healthy bone and cell development.
  • Play an important part in supporting the energy levels required for active minds and healthy bodies.
  • Provide lots of “roughage” which helps the digestive system.
  • Help with maintenance of healthy body weight.
  • Help to support the immune system and protect against disease.

 

Teenagers

 

As a teenager, your body and mind are rapidly developing. To support the physical, mental, and social changes you will experience, you literally need more of every nutrient. Eating well helps to achieve these high levels of nutrition that you need and sets you up for entering a healthy adulthood. Teenagers should aim to eat:

  • five to six serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit every day.
  • a variety of different coloured, different textured, and different types of food every single day. Variety provides a range of nutrition for your growing body.
  • wholegrain breads and cereals, instead of more refined or “white” ones. This helps keep your bowels happy and healthy and provides more nutrition.
  • a variety of protein and “good” fat foods, like nuts, fish, lean meats and poultry, and spreads such as hummus or avocado, to sustain growth.
  • less takeaway and fast foods. These foods are usually high in energy, but low in nutrition. Examples include biscuits, pastries, processed meats, commercial burgers, pizza, french fries and potato chips.
  • plenty of calcium for growing bones. Milk, yoghurt and cheese (mostly reduced fat) or their calcium-fortified alternatives are a great source to include everyday. You can also get some calcium by eating vegetables such a bok choy, nuts such as almonds, and fish such as sardines (with bones).
  • less soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, cordials and juices. Choose water if you want to quench your thirst. Water has the added benefit of not contributing to weight gain, and not contributing to tooth decay.

Eating well to grow well goes hand in hand with physical activity. Get off the couch or computer and go for a walk or do some sport. Get some sunshine as well (but be SunSmart)!

Adults

 

The high demands of work and family life leave many adults exhausted at the end of the day. By eating well and staying active we re-energise our bodies with the much needed fuel that it needs.

These are some simple ways to inject some healthy eating into your day:

  • Aim for at least 5-6 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day
  • Include at least one serve of fruit or vegetables in your breakfast. For example, add banana to your cereal.
  • Include at least two serves of vegetables in every lunch and dinner
  • Include fruits or vegetables in every snack or dessert
  • Create meals with at least three food groups
  • Always choose from a wide variety of food to ensure sufficient intake of all nutrients.
  • Choose wholemeal and wholegrain breads, rice and cereals.
  • Eat mostly reduced fat dairy
  • Cut the skin off chicken and buy lean meat
  • Eat oily fish every week (e.g. salmon, mackerel, trevalla)
  • Keep an eye on your portion size.
  • Plan ahead and stock up on the basics. Suitable alternatives to fresh, seasonal vegetables that you can easily keep in the pantry or freezer for quick meals include frozen, canned (no added salt) or dried vegetables.
  • Add extra vegetables to sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, casseroles, soups, curries, pastas and risottos.
  • Choose low or reduced salt foods, and reduce salt without sacrificing taste in cooking by replacing it with herbs and spices.
  • Sweeten foods with fresh, frozen or tinned (in natural juice) fruit instead of plain sugar or honey
  • Enjoy what you’re eating by sitting down to eat it rather than eating on the run.
  • Share your meals with friends and family

As we get older, it can get harder to create healthy habits. Eating well and staying active into old age is not only important for maintaining health, but can also be a way of inspiring and motivating ourselves to enjoy food and socialise with our local community members.

  • Include fresh fruit or vegetables in every meal, snack or dessert.
  • Be as active as possible to encourage your appetite and maintain muscle mass.
  • Eat foods that have lots of nutrition rather than lots of energy (kilojoules). Examples include eggs, lean meats, poultry, fish, liver, dairy foods, nuts and seeds, legumes, fruit and vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals.
  • Limit foods that are low in nutrition such as cakes, sweet biscuits and soft drinks.
  • Choose calcium rich foods to keep bones strong and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Examples include milk, yoghurt, cheese (choose mostly reduced fat), calcium-fortified soy, green vegetables, and sardines.
  • If possible, try to spend some time outside each day to boost your vitamin D synthesis for healthy bones.
  • Choose foods that are naturally high in fibre to encourage bowel health. Leaving skins on salad and cooked vegetables is a simple way to increase fibre intake.
  • Drink fluids regularly, including water, tea, coffee, milk drinks and soup. Try adding mint or lemon to water for added flavour.
  • Choose low or reduced salt foods, and reduce salt without sacrificing taste in cooking by replacing it with herbs and spices.