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Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight

Do we really know what we are eating?


Are you actually eating “healthy” balanced meals every day?  We’ve all seen the ads More of this, Less of that but do we really know if our own diet is up to scratch and meeting our nutritional requirements?


The information below provides some tips to help you make more appropriate choices.  Please follow the links throughout for more detailed information.  

Healthy eating involves enjoying a wide variety of nutritious foods for the 5 main food groups everyday in the right proportions and drinking plenty of water. 




















In addition to these key food groups, the Australian guidelines also promote five principal recommendations for healthy eating.


  1. To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, be physically active and choose amounts of nutritious foods and drinks to meet your energy needs

  2. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from 5 key groups.

  3. Limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.

  4. Encourage, support and promote breast feeding.

  5. Care for your food; prepare and store it safely



The Digestive tract


We need food to fuel our bodies for energy, growth and repair.  The digestive system converts foods we eat into their simplest forms, like glucose (sugars), amino acids ( that make up protein) or fatty acids ( that make up fats).  The broken down food is the absorbed into the blood stream from the small intestine and the nutrients are carried to each cell.  

The Mouth, this is where the digestive system begins breaking down carbohydrate and sugars by an enzyme contained in saliva.


The small intestine. The food passes from the mouth down the oesophagus to the stomach where it is mixed with gastric juices before entering the small intestine. The first part of the small intestine is the duodenum, the food is mixed with more digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile from the liver. Food is then passed through into the lower small intestine the jejunum and ileum.  Nutrients are absorbed from the ileum which is lined with millions of finger-like projections called villi. Each villus is connected to a mesh of capillaries enabling the nutrients to pass into the bloodstream.


The pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin which regulates the amount of sugar in the blood. Diabetes is a condition caused by problems with insulin production.


The liver has a number of different roles in the body:

  • breaking down fats, using bile stored in the gall bladder

  • processing proteins and carbohydrates

  • filtering and processing impurities, drugs and toxins

  • generation of glucose for short-term energy needs from other compounds

       from lactate and amino acids.


The large intestine, once all the nutrients have been absorbed, the waste is moved

into the large intestine or bowel.  Water is removed and the waste (faeces) is stored

in the rectum.  It can then passed out of the body through the anus.



Balance energy in and energy out to be a healthy weight


Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight is all about balancing the energy we take in and the energy we burn (energy out). Weight you lose gradually is more likely to stay off than weight you lose through crash diets.


Tips for watching the energy you take in:


  • enjoy a variety of foods from the 5 food groups in the amounts recommended

  • watch your portion sizes - particularly foods and drinks that are high in kilojoules

  • limit your intake of energy dense or high kilojoule foods and drinks ( when eating out, menus often display the kilojoules )

  • if you do have an energy dense meal, choose food or drinks for the rest of the days meals that are lower in kilojoules


Tips for watching the energy you burn:


  • be active in as many ways as you can throughout the day - take the stairs rather than the lift, get off the bus at an earlier stop and walk, get up from your desk often, eat lunch away from your desk preferably walk to a nice spot outside.

  • exercise regularly - at least 30 minutes of moderately intense activity on most days. Start small and gradually build up. (If you are over 40, have a pre-existing medical condition or you haven’t exercised for a long time, see your doctor before starting a new fitness program).

  • do more activity when you eat more kilojoules.  The more muscle tissue you have the more kilojoules you burn


Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is good for your overall vitality and well-being and helps prevents many diseases.








Making practical changes to your energy balance


Reducing the amount of kilojoules we eat and drink every day, or doing more exercise every day, even by small amounts, can all add up and make a difference.


  • having salad or rice as a side instead of hot chips

  • ordering grilled instead of deep-fried or crumbed options

  • swapping full fat for low fat or skim milk

  • swapping a high sugar drink for water

  • swapping a fried food for a low kJ one

  • swapping a large food or drink serve for a smaller one

  • avoiding meal deal or ‘two for one’ promotions

  • checking the kilojoules on menus and choosing the lower kilojoule option

  • having fewer kilojoules at other meals

  • doing more activity when you eat more kilojoules.


Being overweight can affect your health


The link between being overweight or obese and the chance you will become ill is not definite. Research is ongoing, although statistically, there is a greater chance of developing various diseases if you are overweight. For example, the risk of death rises slightly (by 20 to 30 per cent) as Body Mass Index (BMI) rises from 25 to 27. As BMI rises above 27, the risk of death rises more steeply (by 60 per cent).


Risks of being overweight ( high BMI) and physically inactive


If you are overweight (with a BMI over 25) and physically inactive, you may develop:

  • cardiovascular (heart and blood circulation) disease

  • gallbladder disease

  • high blood pressure (hypertension)

  • type 2 diabetes

  • osteoarthritis

  • certain types of cancer, such as colon and breast cancer

  • depression and other mental health disorders.


Conversely there are risks of being underweight (low BMI)


If you are underweight (BMI less than 18.5), you may be malnourished and develop:

  • compromised immune function

  • respiratory disease

  • digestive diseases

  • cancer

  • osteoporosis.


Waist Circumference and health risks


Waist circumference can be used to indicate health risk for chronic diseases.


For men:

  • 94 cm or more – increased risk

  • 102 cm or more – substantially increased risk.

For Women:

  • 80 cm or more - increased risk

  • 88 cm or more - substantial increased risk


Healthy diets contain a variety of foods

In general, we should include a range of nutritious foods and eat:

  • plenty of breads and cereals (particularly wholegrain), fruit, vegetables and legumes (such as chickpeas, lentils and red kidney beans)

  • low-salt foods, and use salt sparingly

  • small amounts of foods that contain added sugars

  • reduced-fat milk and other dairy products.


It is also important to drink an adequate amount of water.




Did you know - Adults who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to be a healthy weight and more productive at work. 


Some easy-to-prepare, healthy breakfast ideas include:

  • fresh fruit with wholegrain breakfast cereal and reduced fat milk. Toast with a thin spread of margarine (polyunsaturated or monounsaturated)

  • toast with cheese and tomato. Hot or cold reduced fat milk

  • rolled oats made with quick oats. Add sultanas and reduced fat milk. Toast with a thin spread of margarine (polyunsaturated or monounsaturated). Orange juice

  • baked beans on toast. Orange juice

  • fruit or plain yoghurt with fruit.

How much protein should I eat?


Protein is a nutrient your body needs to repair and grow cells.  It can also be an energy source if you are not eating enough carbohydrates.


The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that you eat 2-3 serves every day from the “protein group”.

A more exact measure of your daily protein requirement depends on your weight, age and height.  As a rough guide: 


  • women need 0.75 grams per kilogram ( so if you weigh 65 Kilograms, you need 45 grams of protein every day)

  • men need 0.84 grams per kilogram (so if you weigh 75 kilograms, you need 63 grams of protein every day).

  • if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or over 70 years old, you need around 1 gram per kilogram. Protein requirements for children and teenagers change as they grow.


For more detailed information regarding the content of this page go to:                                                                                               

Australian Guide to healthy eating
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