Food variety means eating a wide variety of foods from each of the five food groups, in the amounts recommended. Eating many different foods helps maintain a healthy and interesting diet which provides a range of different nutrients to the body. Eating a variety of foods promotes good health and can help reduce the risk of disease
Five major food groups
The five food groups are:
1.vegetables and legumes/beans
3.lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, legumes/beans
4.grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
5.milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat.
Foods are grouped together because they provide similar amounts of key nutrients. For example, key nutrients of the milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives group include calcium and protein, while the fruit group is a good source of vitamins, especially vitamin C. These food groups make up the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating.
Include the five food groups in your diet
It’s not hard to include foods from the five food groups into snacks and meals. Some suggestions include:
- Vegetables and legumes – raw or cooked vegetables can be used as a snack food or as a part of lunch and dinner. Salad vegetables can be used as a sandwich filling. Vegetable soup can make a healthy lunch. Stir-fries, vegetable patties and vegetable curries make nutritious evening meals. Try raw vegetables like carrot and celery sticks for a snack ‘on the run’.
- Fruit – this is easy to carry as a snack and can be included in most meals. For example, try a banana with your breakfast cereal, an apple for morning tea and add some berries in your yoghurt for an afternoon snack. Fresh whole fruit is recommended over fruit juice and dried fruit. Fruit juice contains less fibre than fresh fruit and both fruit juice and dried fruit, and are more concentrated sources of sugar and energy. Dried fruit can also stick to teeth, which can increase the risk of dental caries.
- Bread, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles – add rice, pasta or noodles to serves of protein and vegetables for an all-round meal. There are many varieties of these to try. Where possible, try to use wholegrains in breads and cereals.
- Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, legumes and tofu – these can all provide protein. It’s easy to include a mixture of protein into snacks and meals. Try adding lean meat to your sandwich or have a handful of nuts as a snack. You can also add legumes to soups or stews for an evening meal.
- Milk, yoghurt and cheese – try adding yogurt to breakfast cereal with milk, or using cottage cheese as a sandwich filling. Shavings of parmesan or cheddar can be used to top steamed vegetables or a salad. Use mostly reduced fat products.