Health & Safety

Healthy Eating

Teach your child healthy habits for a healthy life

What are the dietary Guidelines?
The Australian Dietary Guidelines provide up-to-date advice about the amount and kinds of foods that we need eat for health and wellbeing. They are based on scientific evidence and research.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines of most relevance to children are included below:

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.

Guideline 2:
Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five food groups every day:

  • Plenty of vegetables of 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)
    And drink plenty of water.

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 predominately saturated fats such as butter, cream, cooking margarine, coconut palm oil with foods which contain predominately 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 2 years.

b. Limit intake of foods and drinks containing added salt.

  • Read labels to choose lower sodium options among 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 sports drinks.

Guideline 4:
Encourage, support and promote breastfeeding.

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

Foods to limit: discretionary choices

‘Discretionary choices’ are called that because they are not an essential or necessary part of our dietary patterns. Discretionary foods are high in kilojoules, saturated fat, added sugars, added salt, or alcohol. If chosen, they should be eaten only sometimes and in small amounts.

Examples of discretionary choices include:

  • Sweet biscuits, cakes and desserts
  • Processed meats and sausages
  • Ice-cream, confectionery and chocolate
  • Meat pies and other pastries
  • Commercial burgers, hot chips, and fried foods
  • Crisps and other fatty and/or salty snacks
  • Cream and butter
  • Sugar-sweetened cordials, soft drinks and sports drinks.

It is also important to remember that young children (less than 3 years of age) can choke on hard foods. To prevent this from happening:

  • Sit with them when they eat and don’t give them hard foods such as popcorn, nuts, hard confectionary or crisps.
  • Cook or grate hard fruit and vegetables to soften them.
  • Remove all bones from fish or meat.

Encouraging Healthy Habits

Childhood is a time of learning. Children who grow up in families that enjoy a variety of nutritious foods from the Five Food Groups are more likely to make their own healthy choices as they get older.
You can help by teaching your whole family to:

  • Choose ‘everyday foods’ for home and school from the Five Food Groups.
  • Save discretionary choices for special occasions.
  • Provide a variety of types and colours of fresh vegetables and fruit that are in season.
  • Enjoy reduced fat varieties of milk, yoghurt and cheese (once they are 2 years or older).
  • Eat mainly wholegrain cereal foods and breads.
  • Drink plenty of water instead of sugary drinks like cordial, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks, vitamin waters and soft drink.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast every day.
  • Learn about how foods are grown and where they come from.
  • Try new foods and recipes – help with cooking and preparing foods and drinks too.
  • Turn off the tv and computer at mealtimes – make this family time.
  • Wash their hands before eating or cooking.
  • Be physically active – play outside, walk the dog or run around at the local park.

Serve Sizes


Learn more about Australian Dietary Guidelines

Play the food balance game



Food Allergy or Intolerance?

Many people think they are allergic to a food when in fact they are intolerant. Unlike food allergies, intolerances do not involve the body’s immune system. Slower in onset and not life threatening, food intolerance symptoms include headaches, bloating, wind, nausea, mouth ulcers or hives.
Symptoms that occur several hours after a food is eaten are more often as a result of an intolerance or enzyme deficiency rather than a food allergy.

A food allergy is not:

  • The inability to digest a food
  • An aversion to a food (disliking a food)
  • Food poisoning
  • A reaction to a food additive

Signs & Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a food allergic reaction may occur almost immediately after eating or most often within 20 minutes to 2 hours after eating. Rapid onset and development of potentially life threatening symptoms are characteristic markers of anaphylaxis.
Allergic symptoms may initially appear mild or moderate but can progress very quickly. The most dangerous allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) involve the respiratory system (breathing) and/or cardiovascular system (heart and blood pressure).
If you suspect a food has caused a reaction, avoid that food, talk with your doctor and have it investigated. If you know you have a food allergy, then always avoid that specific food trigger.
If you, your child or someone you care for has a reaction to any food, seek medical advice. If you are worried about a serious reaction, call an ambulance or go directly to hospital.

Anaphylaxis Food
Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and is potentially life threatening.  It must be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment and urgent medical attention.
Anaphylaxis is a generalised allergic reaction, which often involves more than one body system (e.g. skin, respiratory, gastro-intestinal, cardiovascular). A severe allergic reaction usually occurs within 20 minutes of exposure to the trigger and can rapidly become life threatening.
A person who is suspected of having a food allergy should obtain a referral to see an allergy specialist for correct diagnosis, advice on preventative management and emergency treatment. Those diagnosed with severe food or insect allergy must carry emergency medication as prescribed as well as an Action Plan for Anaphylaxis signed by their doctor. Food allergic children who have a history of eczema and/or asthma are at higher risk of severe allergic reactions.

Administration of adrenaline is first line treatment of anaphylaxis.

Management & Treatment
Anaphylaxis is a preventable and treatable event. Knowing the triggers is the first step in prevention.
Children and caregivers need to be educated on how to avoid food allergens and/or other triggers.
However, because accidental exposure is a reality, children and caregivers need to be able to recognise symptoms of an anaphylaxis and be prepared to administer adrenaline according to the individual’s Action Plan for Anaphylaxis.

Research shows that fatalities more often occur away from home and are associated with either not using or a delay in the use of adrenaline.
In Australia, adrenaline can be purchased on the PBS in the form of autoinjectors known as the EpiPen®.
More information on prescription is available through ascia

The adrenaline autoinjectors are intramuscular injections that contain a single, pre-measured dose of adrenaline that is given for the emergency treatment of anaphylactic reactions. The devices are for use by lay people and is available in two doses, Epipen® or EpiPen® Jr.
Please consult your doctor for more information on allergic reactions, accurate diagnosis and management strategies.
Visit www.allergy or call 1300 728 000

Mild to moderate allergic reaction Severe allergic reaction- ANAPHYLAXIS
Hives welts or body redness Difficult and/or noisy breathing
Swelling of the face / lips / eyes Swelling of the tongue
Vomiting / abdominal pain (these are signs of a severe allergic reaction/anaphylaxis in someone with severe insect allergy) Swelling or tightness in the throat
Tingling of the mouth Difficulty talking and/or hoarse voice
Wheeze or persistent cough
Persistent dizziness or collapse in its place
Pale and floppy (in young children)

Do you live with an allergy? (PDF)



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