Food & Diet

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Food is a part of everyday life. Whether you're a foodie or you only eat because you have to, it's important to understand how to eat healthily. Developing good habits around food, from eating well to learning how to cook, are skills that will ensure that you're living the happiest, healthiest life you can live.

A Balanced Diet

The Australian Government's Dietary Guidelines (new window) recommend that you eat a wide variety of foods from the following groups:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Grains (mostly wholegrain and/or high fibre varieties), including bread, cereals, rice, pasta and oats
  • Protein, including lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts/seeds and legumes/beans
  • Dairy (mostly reduced fat), including milk, yoghurt and cheese

They also recommend that you limit your intake of foods containing:

  • Saturated fat
  • Added salt
  • Added sugars
  • Alcohol

The Food Rainbow

Different kinds of vegetables come in different colours, each with its own set of disease-fighting chemicals, called phytochemicals. Eating a wide range of different coloured fruit and vegetables every day (e.g., red, purple/blue, yellow/orange, green and brown/white) is a way to make sure you're getting a healthy variety of nutrients in your diet. 

Nutrition Australia (new window) has some more information on eating different coloured foods to stay healthy.

Vitamins and Supplements

Your body needs vitamins and minerals to function properly. Some experts say a balanced diet should give you everything you need and supplements are a waste of money. Others say that there are situations where medication, illness or your lifestyle creates a need for extra vitamins or minerals.

Supermarkets, chemists and health food stores stock a wide range of vitamins and other supplements. Some foods such as breakfast cereals, juices and yoghurts also now include additives such as extra iron, vitamin C or folate.

Note that extra doses of some kinds of vitamins can be dangerous - check in with your doctor or pharmacist before stocking up. Check out the Better Health Channel's page on vitamin and mineral supplements (new window) for more info on their positives and negatives.

A Healthy Approach to Food

Food takes time to prepare and costs money to buy so being short of time, ideas or cash can affect the way you eat. What if you're too busy to cook, or not that confident in the kitchen? Here are a few tips for taking a healthier approach to food:

  • Be relaxed and realistic - eating is meant to be good for you, and fun
  • Be selective when you buy takeaway food from cafes, restaurants and fast food outlets
  • Bring a healthy lunch from home when you go to school, uni or work and save money too, instead of buying junk food or takeaway  

Try focusing on small goals such as cooking a few nights a week or taking lunch to work or school a few days a week. Perhaps you can find inspiration by:

  • Shopping for fresh produce at a market
  • Trying new foods
  • Checking out new recipes
  • Doing a cooking course
  • Planning meals and snacks in advance
  • Preparing healthy meals with friends

Learning How to Cook

If you've never cooked for yourself before, it's not too late to get started. If you're still living at home with your folks, ask them if you can help out with making dinner some time. If you stick at it, pretty soon you'll be making dinner for your family yourself!

There are also some good sites out there that can help you develop the basics, with a bunch of recipes that you can try. Check out: 

  • Young Gourmet (new window) - a resource for food aimed at teenagers, including information about food choices and recipes you can give a go

Food Fights

Not everyone has a great relationship with food. Food can be a comfort and a friend, or it can feel like the enemy.

Food and eating are a regular part of life, but in some situations problems can arise such as bingeing, going on fad diets, obesity or developing an eating disorder. These are serious health issues.

Feeling sick, anxious, worried, bothered or preoccupied with food isn't healthy or fun. If you feel miserable about food or have any of these problems, make sure you ask for help and support.

Check out the Better Health Channel's Weight Loss and Fad Diets page for some information about the dangers of fad diets and tips on losing weight the healthy way.

If you or a friend want to talk to someone about eating disorders, consider talking to your local or family doctor, or calling either Lifeline on 13 11 14, or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (24 hours a day).

You can also find info and suport at the Better Health Channel's Eating Disorders (new window) page and on our Body Image pages.

Links

Better Health Channel - Healthy Eating
Information about healthy living and eating, including information on food labels, junk food, recipes and nutritional needs.

Australian Dietary Guidelines
Provides advice about the amount and kinds of foods that we need to eat for health and wellbeing.

Young Gourmet
A resource about food for young people including recipes, information about ingredients and food production facts.

Nutrition Australia
Provides a range of useful and interesting fact sheets such as Tips For Budget Buying, Food Variety, Shopping for Good Health and What Are Bush Foods?

Food Safety Victoria
This site gives some excellent facts about food safety including hygiene, keeping food safe and avoiding food poisoning.