A serve is a serve is a serve

The Australian Dietary Guidelines and The Australian Guide To Healthy Eating have copped their fair share of criticism lately, but as pointed out in my last post, only a small percentage of us are actually following them. It's a bit of a stretch to say that the guidelines aren't working if no-one is actually eating in accordance with them. Perhaps what isn't working is the promotion of the guidelines. Hopefully these blog posts will make you more familiar with them help you to understand them a little bit better.

There are 5 basic guidelines, so let's begin by looking at the first one.

Guideline 1

To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs

  • Children and adolescents should eat sufficient nutritious foods to grow and develop normally. They should be physically active every day and their growth should be checked regularly.

  • Older people should eat nutritious foods and keep physically active to help maintain muscle strength and a healthy weight. *

To strip it back to the basics, this guideline is looking at being active (which we won't discuss here today) and eating an appropriate amount of food. To help you figure out what an appropriate amount of food is you can look at the recommended serve guide and also the serve size examples.

Have you had a look at the recommended serves and example serves now? Good, let's discuss them. A common reaction I've encountered when showing these to people is that it is actually quite a lot of food. This is true - when you are eating the right amounts from each food group, there is plenty of food to fill you up and keep you satisfied. The guidelines are not about restriction in any way. When you read my example of a daily intake below, my conclusion at the end is that I could actually have eaten a bit more!

So let's look at my day on a plate from Thursday 17th July. This is a basic example of a mid-week daily intake, nothing fancy. Let's see how it stacks up against the recommended serves. The numbers can get a little confusing so remember to refer back to the 'what is a serve' guide as you read through the day. 

Breakfast is 1/2 cup of muesli with 1/2 cup milk, with a black tea (no sugar). The food groups and number of serves in this breakfast are:

  • 2 serves of grains/cereals
  • 0.5 serve of dairy

 Morning tea is half a pear and 30g handful of almonds. The food groups and number of serves in this snack are:

  • 0.5 serve of fruit (pear)
  • 1 serve of meat/alternatives (nuts)

Lunch is an open sandwich of 2 slices bread (wholemeal with grains), 1/4 of an avocado, 1/2 cup baby spinach, 1/2 cup grated carrot, 40g tasty cheese and 40g leftover roast chicken breast. The food groups and number of serves in this lunch are:

  • 2 serves of grains/cereals (bread)
  • 2 serves of vegetables (spinach, carrot, avocado)
  • 1 serve of dairy (cheese)
  • 0.5 serve of meats (chicken)

During the afternoon, snacks included 1 apple and 75g blueberries with 100g plain natural yoghurt. The food groups and number of serves in these snacks are:

  • 1.5 serves of fruit (apple, berries) 
  • 0.5 serve of dairy (yoghurt) 

Dinner is a vegetable and chickpea curry with rice. On my plate is 2 cups of the curry (approx. 1.5 cups veg and 0.5 cup chickpeas), 1 cup of basmati rice and about 50g plain natural yoghurt. The food groups and number of serves in this dinner are:

  • 2 serves of grains/cereals (rice)
  • 3 serves of vegetables (potato, sweet potato, swede, parsnip, carrot, pumpkin, cauliflower)
  • 0.25 serve of dairy (yoghurt)
  • 0.5 serve of meats/alternative (chickpeas)

 Dessert is 2 scoops/75g icecream. The food groups and number of serves in dessert are:

  • 1 serve from discretionary foods.

Actual Serves Vs. Recommended Serves

In this example I am looking at the recommended serves for a women in the 19-50 year age bracket. Remember to check to see what the recommendations are for your own gender and age.

Vegetables: 5 / 5

Fruit: 2 / 2

Grains: 6 / 6

Meats and alternatives: 2 / 2.5

Dairy: 2.25 / 2.5

Discretionary foods: 1 / 0-2.5

Looking back I could have had a little more meat (or alternative) and a little more dairy. If I could do the day over, I'd probably add these extra serves into my breakfast meal. Other than that, I was able to meet my targets, even including dessert. Remember that it's not about getting it perfect every single day, it's just about learning what you need and trying to eat close to that on a regular basis.

In my the next post we will look at guideline two, which will look much more closely at what kind of foods to choose. We will also look at another 'day on a plate' example. I'd love to know your thoughts on the amount of food that we are recommended to eat each day. Why not post a comment below!

*eatforhealth.gov.au, Australian Dietary Guidelines 1-5, viewed 19 July 2014, http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-dietary-guidelines-1-5