The Australian Dietary Guidelines: What you need to know and the best foods to eat
Our choice of foods in Australia is enormous, and many of these foods are unfortunately not good for our health. While the number of people developing diet related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity is also on the rise, The Australian Dietary Guidelines aim to make food choices easier. The guidelines are written recommendations that include what foods we should eat and how much of them in order to maintain good health and reduce our risk of disease.
Based on the evidence from over 55,000 studies, the guidelines translate nutrition research into simple recommendations for Australians. They are however only a broad framework to base our eating from, and if you have specific medical conditions you might need more tailored advice.
Why is a healthy diet important?
The Australian Dietary Guidelines tell us to “enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods”. A high quality diet (that is, healthy and varied) is associated with less illness. There is also recent evidence that links a healthy diet with improved quality of life and longer life expectancy (1).
A healthy varied diet means eating foods from all five food groups. These are:
- Grain foods (e.g. bread, cereal, rice, pasta), preferably wholegrain varieties - Vegetables and legumes/beans - Fruit - Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, and seeds, legumes and beans - Milk, yoghurt, cheese or alternatives
We should eat from all of these groups to ensure we get the essential nutrients our bodies need. A healthy diet also decreases the risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, types 2 diabetes and some cancers. If cutting out a food is necessary (for example, because of an allergy to dairy) then it should be replaced with a suitable alternative.
Some foods are recommended to be eaten much less often in the guidelines. Foods that are high in saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol should be limited. Examples of these foods include processed meats, biscuits, cakes and pastries, fried foods, butter and cream, as well as lollies, soft drinks, cordials and sports drinks. If you do drink alcohol, it’s healthiest to limit your intake as much as you can.
Fad diets - do they work?
On trend diets will result in weight loss if you stick to them, and the more drastic it is the faster you will lose weight. Unfortunately such diets are not sustainable long term, and if you “go on a diet” then you’re going to “go off” it again. This usually means returning to your previous eating habits and eventually, your previous weight (or more!) In addition, many fad diets recommend cutting out whole food group like dairy and grains (i.e. the Paleo Diet).
Balanced eating does not involve cutting out food groups. This is because every food group provides specific groups of nutrients that are essential to good health. So if you cut out a food group, you could be cutting out many nutrients, and risk diseases linked to nutritional deficiencies, such as osteoporosis and iron deficiency anaemia.
Keeping weight off
If weight loss is your goal, putting the weight back on again is the last thing you want. It is therefore important that changes you make to lose weight are sustainable long term. You don’t have to change everything at once, it is better to make small changes that you can stick with for life.
Our Strictly You plans have been rigorously analysed by our Dietitian and are based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines, meaning you’re getting the best nutrition for good health while achieving your health goals.
(1) Anderson AL, Harris TB, Tylavsky FA, Perry SE, Houston DK, Hue TF et al. Dietary patterns and survival of older adults. J Am Diet Assoc 2011;111(1):84–91.
Prepared by Kara Vogt – Accredited Practicing Dietitian