The Australian Dietary Guidelines were created in order to provide up-to-date advice to the public about the types and amounts of foods that we need to eat for health and wellbeing. The recommendations are based on scientific evidence and were developed using quality research.
Following the dietary patterns recommended in the Guidelines will provide enough of the nutrients essential for good health, while also reducing the risk of chronic health problems such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity.
Why do the Guidelines matter?
Since the quality and quantity of foods and drinks consumed has a significant impact on health and wellbeing, better nutrition can vastly improve health on both individual and public levels, decreasing healthcare costs as a result.
Optimum nutrition is essential for the normal growth and development of infants and children, and contributes significantly to quality of life and wellbeing, the maintenance of a healthy weight, resistance to infection, and protection against chronic disease and premature death.
Recent reviews of the evidence on food and health confirm that dietary patterns consistent with the Australian Dietary Guidelines are positively associated with indicators of health and wellbeing. Two systematic reviews found that higher dietary quality was consistently associated with a 10-20% reduction in morbidity.
Who do the Guidelines apply to?
The Guidelines aim to promote the benefits of healthy eating, both to reduce the risk of diet-related disease and to improve community health and wellbeing. The Guidelines are intended for people of all ages and backgrounds in the general healthy population, including those with common diet-related risk factors, such as being overweight. However, it is important to remember that the Guidelines do not apply to people with medical conditions requiring specialised dietary advice, or to frail elderly people who are at risk of malnutrition.
What are the Guidelines?
Guideline 1: To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet your energy needs.
- Children and adolescents should eat sufficient nutritious foods to grow and develop normally. They should be physically active every day and their growth should be checked regularly.
- Older people should eat nutritious foods and keep physically active to help maintain muscle strength and a healthy weight.
Guideline 2: Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five food groups every day, and drink plenty of water.
- Vegetables (including different types and colours) and legumes/beans.
- 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. (Note: reduced fat milks are not suitable for children under the age of two years.)
For details about how many servings you should include from each food group every day — and how much of each food constitutes one serving — see the Australian Dietary Guidelines themselves .
Guideline 3: Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.
a. Limit intake of foods high in saturated fat such as many biscuits, cakes, pastries, pies, processed meats, commercial burgers, pizza, fried foods, potato chips, crisps and other savoury snacks.
- Replace high fat foods which contain predominantly saturated fats such as butter, cream, cooking margarine, coconut and palm oil with foods which contain predominantly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as oils, spreads, nut butters/pastes and avocado.
- Low fat diets are not suitable for children under the age of two years.
b. Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added salt.
- Read labels to choose lower sodium options amongst similar foods.
- Do not add salt to foods in cooking or at the table.
c. Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars such as confectionary, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks.
d. If you choose to drink alcohol, limit your intake. For women who are pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.
Guideline 4: Encourage and support breastfeeding.
- The World Health Organization states that ‘breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants’. 
- Breast milk contains many unique compounds, including live cells, which provide all the nutritional requirements to support growth and development of infants to around six months of age.
- Breastfeeding provides health benefits to infants including reduced risk of infection, asthma and atopic disease and sudden infant death syndrome. It contributes to improved cognitive development and protects against obesity, hypertension and some chronic diseases in later life.
- Benefits to mothers from breastfeeding include improved bonding with their infant, accelerated recovery from childbirth and progress towards a healthy body weight. Breastfeeding is also associated with reduced risk of some cancers.
- Infants should be exclusively breastfed until around six months of age when solid foods are introduced. Breastfeeding should be continued while solid foods are introduced until 12 months of age and beyond, for as long as the mother and child desire.
- Breastfeeding outcomes (including initiation rates and duration) are improved where the mother has support and encouragement from the infant’s father, other family members, health workers, the hospital and the community.
The Guidelines provide a wealth of information on why breastfeeding is beneficial to the health of the infant and the mother, plus practical considerations for encouraging, supporting and promoting breastfeeding.
Guideline 5: Care for your food. Prepare and store it safely.
- More than five million cases of foodborne illness are estimated to occur every year in Australia.
- Bacterial and viral food poisoning is a result of pathogenic organisms reaching harmful levels or the production of pathogenic toxins.
- Incorrect handling of food and storing food at inappropriate temperatures are major causes of food poisoning. Particular care should be taken when handling food to be consumed by people who have an increased risk of foodborne illness, such as pregnant women, infants, older people and people with certain medical conditions.
The Guidelines provide helpful information on preventing foodborne illness.
How Nutritics can help
Nutritics helps nutrition professionals to support clients in meeting their dietary requirements, equipping you with all the tools you need to provide in-depth nutrition analysis, meal plans and professional reports. Create meal plans using our database of over one million foods, including supplements and branded data. Easily compare client nutrient intakes with national and international guidelines, or set up custom targets based on your clients’ goals.
To learn more about how Nutritics can deliver value to your clients and help them to achieve their goals — all while simplifying your day-to-day tasks — get in touch today and book your free demo.
- Nutrition Australia. ‘Australian Dietary Guidelines: Recommended daily intakes’ (2021). https://nutritionaustralia.org/fact-sheets/adgs-recommended-daily-intakes/
- Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, Dept of Health and Ageing. ‘Eat For Health: Australian Dietary Guidelines’ (2013). https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/content/n55_australian_dietary_guidelines.pdf
- World Health Organization. Exclusive Breastfeeding Statement (2011). http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/exclusive_breastfeeding/en