Australian Dietary Guidelines

The last few weeks we have refreshed our knowledge or become newly acquainted with the three macronutrients; carbohydrate, protein and fat. Breads & cereals, fruits and starchy vegies like potatoes and corn are healthy sources of carbohydrates; protein is from lean meats, meat products such as eggs and dairy as well as nuts and legumes, and healthy fats are found in oily fish, nuts and seeds. We hear often enough that our little ones need a balanced diet for growth and energy, but what is a balanced diet and how do we know if they are getting enough of the good stuff?
The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide a reference to help us nourish growing bodies. A nice easy-to -read visual pamphlet of Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia (2003) is available here. All Australian Dietary Guidelines are currently under review by the nations foremost experts and are due for release in September of this year. In the meantime, the 2003 version remains a useful reference tool to help us nourish our families.
To summarise, the Guidelines recommend:

  1. Encourage and support breastfeeding
  2. Children and adolescents need sufficient nutritious foods to grow and develop normally (monitor growth regularly)
  3. Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods
  4. Care for your child’s food: prepare and store it safely (hand & kitchen hygiene, refrigeration etc.)

The following table offers guidance on what to include in a child’s diet over a day, foods are grouped together by nutrient content (for example: the meat, fish, poultry, nuts & legumes group are excellent sources of protein and iron). There is no specified number of serves per day recommended for children under four years of age due to the enormous variability in individual growth rates. However, it goes without saying that younger children and toddlers also need similar nutritious foods and it is important to encourage acceptance of new foods by being a little creative and offering a wide variety!

Vegetables, legumes 
Milk, yoghurt, cheese Lean meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts Extra foods (have no more than)
e.g. 1 cup rice, pasta, cereal; 2 slices bread, 1 bread roll e.g. 1 med potato, ½ cup cooked veg, 1 cup salad e.g. 1 med piece or 2 small or 1 cup tinned e.g  1 cup milk or custard, 200g yoghurt, 40g cheese e.g. 100g meat, 2 eggs, 1/3 cup nuts, 1/3 cup beans e.g. med pc cake, ½ choc bar, 30g potato chips
4-7 years 5-7 2 1 2 ½ 1-2
8-11 years 6-9 3 1 2 1 1-2
12-18 years 5-11 4 3 3 1 1-3

From the Dietary Guidelines for Children & Adolescents in Australia, 2003.
It is really important to note that the Dietary Guidelines do not actually recommend ‘extra foods’, however to acknowledge the fact these foods are a part of the real world, they have been included to guide a recommended maximum number of ‘treat food’ serves. No ‘extra’ foods are needed and can be replaced by additional servings from the other food groups.
Keep in mind these are guidelines have been developed to suit the nutrient requirements of the majority of the healthy population. Children with medical conditions such as allergies clearly cannot enjoy those foods and an Accredited Practising Dietitian can prepare a nutritionally balanced meal plan suited to your child’s medical needs. Please feel free to contact Andrea at or with comments or feedback.
Andrea Cruickshank APD AN

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