Very helpful food guidelines for our little ones! –
The Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia (DGCA) recommends that for best health, children should “enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods”. This means eating different food types, as shown by The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (AGHE) to obtain all the required nutrients without excess energy (kilojoule) intake.
Variety also refers to choosing a range of foods from within each food group, particularly from the plant-based food groups (Fruit, Vegetables and Legumes and Breads and Cereals).
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating
The AGHE is a guide to the amounts and types of foods that are necessary to get enough of the nutrients needed for good health and wellbeing.
The AGHE is divided into five food groups that provide important nutrients the body needs. These are referred to as ‘everyday’ foods and are:
- Breads, cereals, rice, pasta and noodles;
- Vegetables and legumes;
- Milk, yoghurt and cheese; and
- Meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts and legumes.
In addition, ‘extra foods’ are the other foods that don’t fit into the above food groups because they have limited nutritional benefit. Oils and margarine should be eaten in small amounts and confectionary, soft drinks, hot chips and crisps should be eaten only ‘sometimes’.
It is also important that plenty of water is drunk as part of a balanced diet.
The following outlines the importance of each of the food groups, the recommended serves of each food group and serving sizes.
Fruit, Vegetables and Legumes (fruit and vegetables)
Why is it important for children to eat fruit and vegetables?
Fruit and vegetables are good sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.
A diet high in fruit and vegetables also helps:
- Prevent vitamin deficiencies
- Prevent obesity
- Prevent constipation and other bowel disorders
- Reduce blood pressure
- Reduce cholesterol levels
- Improve blood glucose control
Fruit, vegetables and legumes are full of phytochemicals, which can:
- Help prevent cancer and slow cancer growth
- Protect against cardiovascular disease
- Protect against type 2 diabetes
- Protect against cataracts
- Protect against macular degeneration
Therefore, it is important to start with good eating habits during childhood as a way of reducing the risk of diet-related diseases in adulthood.
How many serves of fruit and vegetables do children need to eat?
The amount children should eat depends on their age, appetite and activity level. Try to offer a variety of fruits and vegetables as different coloured fruits and vegetables provide different phytochemicals and antioxidants.
The recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables for children and adolescents is shown in the table below:
Age of child (years) Fruit (serves) Vegetables (serves) 4-7 1-2 2-4 8-11 1-2 3-5 12-18 3-4 4-9
Serve sizes for fruit and veg
A serve of fruit is:
- 1 medium piece (eg apple, banana, pear, orange)
- 2 small pieces (eg apricots, plums, kiwifruit)
- 1 cup diced pieces or canned fruit
- 1.5 tablespoons dried fruit (eg 4 apricot halves)
A serve of vegetables is:
- ½ cup cooked vegetables
- ½ cup cooked legumes or lentils
- 1 cup salad vegetables