We've had a brief look at serving sizes and the first guideline from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, so now let's follow on with guideline number two:
Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five groups every day:
Plenty of vegetables, including different types and colours, and legumes/beans
Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat (reduced fat milks are not suitable for children under the age of 2 years)
And drink plenty of water.
There's a good chance that you were first introduced to these 5 food groups in primary school (most probably in the back of a mobile van with a talking giraffe and a plastic dummy who went by the name of Tam, if you grew up in Australia). Here are some things to know about the groupings.
- The groups are based around foods which contain similar nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein).
- Legumes/beans (including all beans, chickpeas, lentils, split peas, tofu) appear in both the 'vegetables' and 'meat/alternatives' groups because they are such a powerhouse food, containing good amounts of protein and iron (like other meats) as well as fibre and other nutrients (like other vegetables).
- A key word in the above guideline is VARIETY. Just because two different foods are in the same group doesn't mean they contain the exact same nutrients, so eating a range of different foods from each group will mean you are likely to get a broad intake of all the different nutrients your body requires. It's not necessary to worry too much about individual nutrients if you are eating a wide variety of good wholesome food.
- In addition to the 5 groups above, there are also foods that we consider 'discretionary foods'. These are foods that are not necessary for a healthy diet and often contain high levels of energy (kJs), saturated fats, sugar and salt. The Australian Guide To Healthy Eating does, however, acknowledge that you can include them in small amounts. Life would be pretty grim if you couldn't enjoy a bit of cake on your birthday, am I right?! You do need to be sensible about these foods though, especially if you are managing certain health conditions or trying to lose weight.
- It is up to you to choose good options from within these groups. An adult between 19-50 years of age is recommended to eat 6 serves from the grains/cereals group each day, but that is not a free ticket to eat 6 slices of highly refined white bread each day. Eating 5 servings of potato as your only vegetable is not going to earn you any Dietitian brownie points (nor is eating 5 servings of brownies).
Here is another example to look at from my day on Monday 21st July.
Breakfast is scrambled eggs (2 eggs, dash of milk, chopped parsley), 1/2 cup spinach and 1/4 avocado on 2 slices of toast (wholemeal and chia seed). Also a cup of black tea, no sugar. The serves and food groups in this meal are:
1 serve of meats/alternatives (eggs)
1.5 serves of vegetables (spinach, avocado)
2 serves of grains/cereals (toast)
Morning snacks include a small flat white with one sugar, a cafe style cookie and half a banana. The serves and food groups in these morning snacks are:
1 serve of dairy (from the coffee)
1 serve from discretionary foods (cookie)
0.5 serves of fruit (banana)
Lunch is a very simple sandwich with 20g cheese, 1/2 a tomato and some mustard, as well as 200g plain natural yoghurt with 6 strawberries. The serves and food groups in this lunch are:
2 serves of grains/cereals (bread)
1.5 serves of dairy (cheese, yoghurt)
0.5 serves of vegetables (tomato)
1 serve of fruit (strawberries)
Did not have afternoon snacks this day as I was not hungry.
Dinner was a piece of steak (approx 130g raw weight) with half a corn cob and 1 1/2 cups of steamed mixed vegetables. The serves and food groups in this meal are:
1.5 serves of meat (steak)
4 serves of vegetables (corn, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, pumpkin)
Supper was 2 pieces of raisin toast spread with a canola margarine. The serves and food groups in this supper are:
2 serves of grains/cereals (toast)
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: 6 / 5
Fruit: 1.5 / 2
Grains: 6 / 6
Meats and alternatives: 2.5 / 2.5
Dairy: 2.5 / 2.5
Discretionary foods: 1 / 0-2.5
Fruit was slightly under target, however you could probably add in the raisins from the toast at supper to bump it up to 2 serves. You might look at this day's intake and think, "isn't that a lot of bread?" Yes, it was a bit of a 'bread-heavy' day, however it wasn't an excess all in one sitting, it was a good choice of bread, and remember that this is only one day - I have days with no bread at all, so all good as far as I'm concerned. Remember - it's not about trying to be perfect.
*eatforhealth.gov.au, Australian Dietary Guidelines 1-5, viewed 22 July 2014, http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-dietary-guidelines-1-5