A healthy diet is an important factor in maintaining our health and wellbeing. As well as being a key component of weight management, a healthy diet assists in preventing chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. Health conditions associated with diet can also be influenced by environmental, behavioural, biological, societal and genetic factors.

Australia has national guidelines that recommend the amount and types of foods we should eat to promote health and wellbeing and reduce the risk of chronic disease. The Australian Dietary Guidelines were developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council and are based on scientific evidence and expert opinion [1]. The guidelines recommend:

  • being physically active and choosing amounts of nutritious food and drinks to meet energy needs
  • enjoying a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups (and drinking plenty of water) every day:
    • 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)
  • limiting intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol
  • encouraging, supporting and promoting breastfeeding
  • caring for food by preparing and storing it safely.

Australia also has a set of Nutrient Reference Values that provide recommended levels of intake of specific nutrients to meet the needs of healthy individuals [2]. The Nutrient Reference Values include Estimated Average Requirements, which can be used to estimate the prevalence of inadequate intakes in the population, and Upper Levels of Intake, which can be used to estimate the proportion of the population at risk of adverse effects from excessive intake.


  1. NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) 2013. Australian Dietary Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.
  2. NHMRC 2006. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand including Recommended Dietary Intakes. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.