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The Five Food Groups

There are five Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG).

The second dietary guideline is as follows:

Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five groups every day:1

  • Plenty of vegetables, including different types and colours, and legumes/beans
  • Fruit
  • 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)

There is no such thing as a perfect diet. Staying close to a healthy diet though will increase your chances of living longer. The problem with people’s eating patterns is that these guidelines are rarely followed exactly. Too many people eat too much and too many Discretionary Foods. 

In all honesty the Australian Dietary Guidelines are just that, guidelines and they aren’t universally taught. Even though the population eat from the five food groups they often over consume total calories. I don’t blame them, food is delicious after all. As an ex-chef I’m all for experiencing a good variety of tasty food but I also value health equally. 

Overeating calories obviously leads to weight gain. In the case of resistance exercise and muscle building this is favorable to an extent. Food and drink consumption should be relatively balanced to the energy you use on an average day. Chronic excessive weight gain will increase your chances of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

The reason so many fad diets are around in my opinion is that people do not understand the guidelines, thus blame them to the point of demonising particular foods or complete food groups. The guidelines are not perfect. This is not to say we will do well just eating anything that comes off the supermarket shelf born out of a laboratory test kitchen to be shelf stable with maximum profit as the goal. Can you see the conflict of interest?

Of course there are exceptions to the rule. People have intolerances, allergies and other medical conditions like chronic inflammatory bowel disease that may require adjustments.

Waist Circumference

Manage your waist circumference by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and by not consuming too much. if you want to find out if you are at risk measure your waist.

For adult men2

Stay under 94cm waist circumference. Over 102cm is an increased risk to chronic disease.

For adult women2

Stay under 80cm waist circumference. Over 88cm is an increased risk to chronic disease.

(these do not apply to pregnant women or to non-European background people who have different body shapes and sizes.)

How Many Serves?

For adults of average height

* Includes an allowance for unsaturated spreads or oils and nuts or seeds: 4 serves [28–40g] per day for men less than 70 years of age; 2 serves [14–20g] per day for women and older men.1

Table 13 Sample daily food patterns for men and women. National Health and Medical Research Council (2013).1

How to read:

  1. Select your gender or pregnancy.
  2. Select your age group 
  3. Select the number of serves from each of the first 5 food groups
  4. If you are taller and/or more active add 0 to 3 serves (see white column).

What Is A Serve?  

Vegetables and legumes/beans1


A serve of vegetables is approximately 75g:

• ½ cup of cooked green or orange vegetables (for example broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)

• ½ cup cooked, dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (no added salt)

• 1 cup of green leafy or raw salad vegetables

• ½ cup of sweetcorn

• ½ medium potato other starchy vegetables (for example sweet potato, taro or cassava)

• 1 medium tomato



A serve of fruit is about 150g, for example:

• 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear

• 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums

• 1 cup diced or canned fruit (with no added sugar)

• or occasionally as a substitute for other foods in the group

• ½ cup (125ml) 100% fruit juice (no added sugar)

• 30g dried fruit (for example 4 dried apricot halves or 1½ tablespoons of sultanas)

Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties1


• 1 slice of bread (40g)

• ½ medium roll or flat bread (40g)

• ½ cup cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, bulgur or quinoa (75–120g)

• ½ cup cooked porridge (about 120g)

• 2/3 cup wheat cereal flakes (30g)

• ¼ cup muesli (30g)

• 3 crispbreads (35g)

• 1 crumpet (60g) or a small English muffin or plain scone (35g).

Choose mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties1

Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans1


• 65g cooked lean meat (about 90–100g raw weight of beef, veal, lamb, pork, kangaroo or goat)

•   80g cooked poultry (about 100g raw weight of skinless chicken or turkey)

• 100g cooked fish fillet (about 115g raw weight) or small can of fish

• 2 large eggs (120g)

• 1 cup (150g) cooked or canned legumes/beans such as lentils, chick peas or split peas (no added salt)

• 170g tofu

• 30g nuts, seeds or peanut or almond butter or tahini or other nut or seed paste (no added salt or sugars)

If it’s more convenient or your preference, double the portion and eat that every second day. 

Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat1


• 1 cup (250ml) fresh, UHT long-life or reconstituted powdered milk or buttermilk

• ½ cup (120ml) evaporated milk

• 2 slices, or 4x3x2cm piece (40g) hard cheese

• ½ cup (120g) ricotta cheese

• ¾ cup (200g tub) yoghurt

• 1 cup (250ml) soy beverage or beverages made from rice or other cereals which contain at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml

Choosing mostly reduced fat dairy will benefit you eating fewer calories. That said the fat does contain a rich nutrient source so try to find harmony between low fat foods and higher fat foods across your diet.

For example: If you really like full fat whole milk in your cafe latte in the morning, you might like to choose a lean chicken breast grilled instead of battered and deep fried or skip the fat on your sirloin steak a.k.a. Porterhouse or New York steak. 

For non dairy consumers to get the same amount of calcium as a serve of dairy or alternatives:

• 100g (about ½ cup) almonds with skin

• 45g sardines, canned in water (about 1–2 sardines)

• 75–80g (about 1/3 cup) canned pink or Australian salmon with bones. 

Unsaturated spreads and oils1


• 10g polyunsaturated spread

• 10g monounsaturated spread

• 7g monounsaturated or polyunsaturated oil, for example olive, canola or sunflower oil

• 10g tree nuts or peanuts or nut pastes/butters

Discretionary foods1

(600 kJ)

Examples are:

• 2 scoops (75g) ice-cream

• 2 slices (50–60g) processed meats, salami or mettwurst

• 1½ thick or 2 thin (50–70g) regular sausages

• ½ snack size packet (30g) salty crackers or crisps

• 2–3 (35g) sweet biscuits

• 1 (40g) doughnut

• 1 slice (40g) plain cake or small cake-type muffin

• 5–6 (40g) sugar confectionary/small lollies

• 1 tablespoons (60g) jam/honey

• ½ small bar (25g) chocolate

• 2 tablespoons (40g) cream

• 1 tablespoon (20g) butter

• 200ml wine (2 standard drinks; but note this is 1 glass for most Australian wines)

• 60ml spirits (2 standard drinks)

• 600ml light beer (1½ standard drinks)

• 400ml regular beer (1½ standard drinks)

• 1 can (375ml) soft drink

• ¼ (60g) commercial meat pie or pastie

• 12 (60g) fried hot chips

These foods should only be consumed occasionally and in small amounts. They normally contain high saturated fats, added sugars, high salt content, trans fatty acids, alcohol with relatively low nutritional quality. There are better choices to ensure you get adequate nutrients without increasing too much body fat.  

If you’re looking for an explanation for Ultra Processed Foods which relates to Discretionary Foods check it out here.



Due the guidelines being specific and to avoid confusion the bullet points are written exactly as the reference source [1]. All credit is given to the National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia). For a deeper explanation of the reason behind the ADG consult a registered Dietician or Nutritionist, alternatively see the reference source.

[1] National Health and Medical Research Council. Eat for health – Educator guide. (2013):67 pages. Available from:

[2] Australian Government Department of Health (no date). Waist circumference. Available from:


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