Everyday meals and weekly planning can be hard for many reasons. Food choices are often influenced by taste, convenience, and of course budget. With the cost-of-living skyrocketing right now, budget has become one of the most important factors when selecting or shopping for food. Then on top of our very busy schedules, Australian families lean towards convenience when selecting foods. Did you know that you can have both, a convenient and nutritious meal that doesn’t cost a lot? All it takes is planning but it can be done. Our Dietitians explain further why Healthy eating is important and how you don’t have to compromise on nutrition for convenience.
Why is eating healthy hard?
Everyday meals and weekly planning can be hard for many reasons. Food choices are often influenced by taste, convenience, and budget.
TASTE Who among us does not love a Big Mac or a particular favourite sweet dessert or some type of fast-food? The truth is that everyone may enjoy some type of discretionary food – we are surrounded by them. Taste plays a great role in our food selection.
COST With the cost of living increasing, budget is one of the most important factors when selecting food. For instance, discretionary or unhealthy foods are often cheaper than healthy and nutritious foods. Recommended healthy diets are not always affordable for low socioeconomic groups.
CONVENIENCE Australian families have a busy schedule. Individuals often work long hours, have a side hustle, and engage in social activities with their children. 1 in 6 Australians do not sit to dinner until after 8:30pm. Data shows that, in 2023, over two-thirds of Australians (68%), order takeaway food and over half (54%) of working Australians eat out in a restaurant at some point during their week because they do not have the time or supplies to prepare a meal at home.
Why is healthy eating so important?
For a healthy long life of course!
According to the Centre for Disease Control and prevention (CDC), people with healthy eating patterns tend to live longer with a lower risk of chronic conditions, such as heart problems, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Did you know that coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for males and the second leading cause of death for females in Australia?
What is healthy eating?
Healthy eating means eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of food from each food group. There are 5 food groups that you need to know of:
Vegetables, legumes, and beans
Grains (cereal food)
Lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes/beans, nuts, and seeds
Milk, yoghurt, and cheese
The foods in each food group provide
different types of nutrients. For example, milk, yoghurt, and cheese are rich in calcium and protein, whereas fruits are rich in vitamins, especially vitamin C.
The picture to the right illustrates the Healthy Eating Pyramid. It is a simple, visual guide to the types and proportions of the 5 food groups. Vegetables, legumes, grains, and fruits make up the foundation of the pyramid. The milk, dairy products and the lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes food groups make up the middle layer. The top of the pyramid illustrates the healthy fats such as olive oil. In addition to eating the variety of food as shown in the food pyramid, it is important to stay active and choose water as your drink. It is also recommended to limit sugar and salt intake.
How much should you eat from each food group?
Energy and nutrients requirements are unique to every person. This is due to many factors including age, gender, weight, and height. Here’s a general guide for a few age groups:
Preschoolers need 2-4 cups of vegetables, 0.5- 1.5 cups of fruits, 4 serves of grains, 1-1.5 serves of meat, and 1-2 serves of milk and dairy products.
Adults, on the other hand, require 5-6 serves of vegetables, 2 serves of fruits, 6 serves of grains, 3 serves of meat, and 2.5 serves of milk and dairy products.
Older adults, aged 70 years and above, have similar vegetables, fruits, and meats requirements but lower requirements from the grains group (3-4.5 serves) and increased milk and dairy products requirements with 3-4 serves as they are at high risk of bone density loss.
If you would like to know about your personalised requirements, reach out to see one of our OSCAR Care Group Dietitians (via telehealth from anywhere in Australia or in person in our clinic in Mulgrave VIC).
Coming to reality, people often do not meet their requirements from these food groups.
In fact, 94% of Australians do not meet the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables despite all the benefits on health.
Only 6% of children meet both the fruit and vegetables recommendations.
99% of older Australians are not consuming the recommended amount of dairy in their diet, which decreases their calcium levels and leads to poor bone health and increased risk of osteoporosis.
What about discretionary food?
Often referred to as ‘energy-dense’ and ‘nutrient-poor’ foods, discretionary foods are high in calories, saturated fats, added salt/sugar, and alcohol. They can often take the place of more nutritious foods and they are associated with increased risk of obesity and chronic diseases.
With all these barriers that you face along the way of being healthy, Dietitians at OSCAR Care Group can help with menu planning to support you with healthy meal ideas and personalised meal guides that align with your lifestyle.
But healthy eating is so much more than just the food we eat
Developing a positive relationship with food is the first step towards a healthy, well-balanced diet. Having a healthy mindset towards food is just as important as eating healthy. Healthy eating is about…
Enjoying the food you eat.
Giving yourself permission to eat all types of foods, and trusting your body to tell you what, and how much, to eat.
Not restricting “junk” food, and including these foods in your diet when you feel like it.
Healthy eaters tend to have a better nutrient intake, get more exercise, sleep better, and feel better about themselves in everyday life.
Read more about Growing Good Eaters
6 Healthy Eating tips to help make meals nutritious and convenient
Plan meals in advance. It is an effective way to eat healthy, save money, and minimize food wastage.
Focus on eating a variety of food from the five food groups and have discretionary food occasionally.
Do not skip meals. Try to have your breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Choose healthy snacks such as fruits, wholegrain biscuits and cheese, popcorn, vegetable sticks with a dip.
Keep a stock of long-life ingredients such as frozen, canned, or dried products that can be combined in different ways to create interesting dishes. Frozen fruit and vegetables are so handy to have available.
Cook in bulk, and freeze leftovers into meal-size portions for later in the week or month.
Our Dietitians are passionate about health and wellbeing. They can assist you through your healthy journey to reach your goals. At the clinic in Mulgrave, VIC, one-on-one sessions are offered to clients from all ages and telehealth is available for anyone in regional Victoria and interstate.
Nurture growing bodies with positive healthy eating habits within your care.
Children, these days, have too many sugary drinks and discretionary foods. These foods are high in energy and poor in nutritional content recommended for children. They are often related to a range of problems including excess weight gain, tooth erosion and decay, small appetites, picky eating and changes in bowel habits. As children grow, good nutrition is key for good health, growth, and development.
Healthy eating ensures a child has:
Good energy levels
Strong bones and teeth
Clarity and alertness
Low risk of chronic diseases
Healthy eating and menu planning ensures that your child receives a nutritionally balanced diet, and also saves time and money! Planning meals ahead helps cut down junk food and poor food choices when you’re busy or haven’t got the ingredients to cook.
For childcare centres and long stay care, meal important is just as important.
Not only do you have large range of children to prepare for, you are providing most of the daily dietary requirements. Nutrition is science! Infants and toddlers have a unique demand for certain nutrients to support their growth, development, and loads of activity. This is why it is recommended that childcare centres enlist support from Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) The OSCAR Care Group Dietitians offer personalised menus and menu reviews for Childcare Centres.
Menu planning ensures:
nutritious food to meet nutrient requirements,
offers greater variety
meet current guidelines for toddler and preschoolers within care
manages allergies and intolerances
Older adults’ diets in aged care homes
Residents in Aged Care homes are at greater risk of malnutrition, sarcopenia, pressure injuries, bone and muscle loss, frailty, reduced functional capacity and greater care needs. The consequences of poor nutrition in this population are significant and often irreversible. Good nutrition is a vital component for good health within residential aged care. Menu planning provides residents with the opportunity to:
Meet their energy and protein requirements with variety of colours, textures and flavours
Enjoy their food
Have meals that are catered to their preferences
Maintain good quality of life
Recover from illnesses
Minimise the risk of malnutrition, unplanned weight loss, dehydration, pressure injuries/wounds, falls
Every single menu for every season, every year requires Dietitian input in Aged Care. Menus with Dietitian input ensure nutritional needs are met and that appropriate dining experience is being provided for all residents. Together, we develop a tasty, nutritious menu tailored to the unique needs of older Australians that is IDDSI compliant too! Careful planning of a menu is essential to enhance the nutritional value of the food supply and above all, to encourage residents to eat. Our Dietitians offer personalised menus and menu reviews for all Australian aged care homes. Get our experts onboard today to assist you with your Aged Care menus today!