Healthy living

Healthy eating

Good nutrition is essential for healthy growth and development in childhood, and ongoing health and wellbeing, but many Western Australians’ diets are inconsistent with national recommendations.

What are the health effects of a poor diet?

The food and drinks you consume each day affect your health today, tomorrow and in the future. A poor diet can lead to:

Short term effects Long term effects
  • Low energy levels
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tiredness
  • Poor sleep
  • Feeling down or low
  • Stress
  • Tooth decay
What is healthy eating?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines (external site) provides advice about the amount and kinds of food we need to eat for good health. The guidelines encourage people to eat a wide variety of food from 5 food groups. These are:

Food group Examples
Vegetables and legumes/beans
Carrot, tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, peas, sprouts, lettuce, potato, sweet potato, corn, beans, chickpeas, soybeans, tofu, spinach, pumpkin
Fruit Apple, banana, orange, pear, apricot, kiwi fruit, watermelon, grapes
Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties Bread, pasta, rice, couscous, oats, polenta, wheat flakes, crumpet, rice cakes
Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans Chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork, kangaroo, fish, prawns, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, tofu
Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives mostly reduced fat Milk – reduced fat or full cream milks, plain and flavoured long life milks, powdered milk, evaporated milk, soy beverages.
Yoghurt – yoghurts including reduced fat or full cream, plain and flavoured, soy yoghurt.
Cheese – hard cheeses, reduced or full fat for example cheddar.

View the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating poster (external link).

The guidelines also say to:

  • drink plenty of water
  • use small amounts of unsaturated spreads and oils
  • limit discretionary foods such as chocolates, hot chips, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, cakes, ice cream and alcohol. These items have lots of saturated fat, added sugars and salt. Eating too many discretionary foods can lead to overweight and obesity in children and adults.
How much is a serve?

Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain

Load of bread and penne pastaGrain foods are mostly made from wheat, oats, rice, rye, barley, millet, quinoa and corn. They can be cooked and eaten whole, ground into flour to make cereal foods like bread, pasta and noodles, or made into ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.

You should aim to eat mostly wholegrain options in this food group. Wholegrain cereals contain more fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than cereal foods such as white bread. You can check whether an item you are buying is wholegrain by reading food package or labelling.

Examples of 1 serve:

  • 1 slice (40 g) bread
  • 1/2 medium (40 g) roll or flat bread
  • 1/2 cup (75-120 g) cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, bulgur or quinoa
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) cooked porridge
  • 2/3 cup (30 g) wheat cereal flakes
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) muesli.

Vegetables and legumes or beans

Examples of 1 serve:

  • 1/2 cup cooked green or orange vegetables (for example broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (preferably with no added salt)
  • 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 1/2 medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro or cassava).


Examples of 1 serve:

Or only occasionally:

  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) fruit juice (no added sugar)
  • 30 g dried fruit (for example, 4 dried apricot halves, 1 and a 1/2 tablespoons of sultanas).

Milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives, mostly reduced fat

Examples of 1 serve:

  • 1 cup (250 ml) fresh, UHT long life, reconstituted powdered milk or buttermilk
  • 1 cup (250 ml) soy, rice or other cereal drink with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) evaporated milk
  • 2 slices (40 g) or cube (40 g) of hard cheese, such as cheddar
  • 3/4 cup (200 g) yoghurt

Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seedstwo chicken eggs and handful of almonds

Examples of 1 serve:

  • 65 g cooked lean red meats such as beef, lamb, veal, pork, goat or kangaroo (about 90-100 g raw)
  • 80 g cooked lean poultry such as chicken or turkey (100 g raw)
  • 100 g cooked fish fillet (about 115 g raw) or one small can of fish
  • 2 large (120 g) eggs
  • 170 g tofu.
How much should I eat from each food group?

The amounts of food you need from each food group depends on your age, gender and life stage.

Table: Recommended daily food serves for children

Fruit Grain Lean meat Milk, yoghurt, cheese

1-2 2-3 0.5 4 1 1-1.5

2-3 2.5 1 4 1 1
4-8 4.5
1.5 4 1.5 2
9-11 5 2 5 2.5 2.5
12-13 5.5 2 6 2.5 3.5
14-18 5.5 2 7 2.5 3.5

2-3 2.5 1 4 1 1.5
4.5 1.5 4 1.5 1.5
9-11 5 2 4 2.5 3
12-13 5 2 5 2.5 3.5
14-18 5 2 7 2.5 3.5

For children who are tall for their age, very active or in the higher end of the age band, extra serves from the five food groups may be needed to keep up energy levels.

Table: Recommended daily food serves for adults

Fruit Grain Lean meat Milk, yoghurt, cheese

19-50 6 2 6 3 2.5
51-70 5.5 2 6 2.5 2.5
70+ 5 2 4.5 2.5 3.5

19-50 5 2 6 2.5 2.5
51-70 5 2 4 2 4
70+ 5 2 3 2 4

For adults who are taller, very active or in the higher end of an age band, extra serves from the five food groups may be needed to keep up energy levels.

Table: Recommended daily food serves for pregnant and lactating women

Fruit Grain Lean meat Milk, yoghurt, cheese

Pregnant 5 2 8.5 3.5 2.5
Lactating 7.5 2 9 2.5 2.5

Pregnant 5 2 8 3.5 3.5
Lactating 5.5 2 9 2.5 4


  • Healthy eating is important for everyone.
  • Eat a variety of foods from the 5 food groups.
  • Eat the recommended number of serves for your age, gender and life stage.

Where to get help


Australian Government, Australian Dietary Guidelines

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Picture of poached egg and asparagus on a muffin with text: Try something new today - we have a recipe for every occasion