• Try fruit or vegetable pikelets.
  • Fruit toppers or a thin spread of unsaturated margarine or unsalted nut paste on wholegrain pikelets, wholegrain English muffins, toast or crumpets too.
  • Vegetables fresh sliced or cooked such as tomatoes/onions/mushrooms/corn/zucchini; these are also great on wholegrain toast or English muffins.
  • Wholegrain cereal, porridge or untoasted muesli with low fat milk or yogurt and fruit.

Main meals

Pasta dinner with spaghetti and mince mixture prepared and presented on white plate with side salad.
  • Choose lean, uncrumbed or battered small pieces of meat, skinless chicken, fish to grill/steam/poach/bake/stir fry with low salt flavours/lightly fry in small amounts of unsaturated oil.
  • Try a legume or egg based dish.
  • Cook a lean piece of meat or piece of skinless chicken. Slice while warm and toss over  salad vegetables.
  • Cook a base recipe that can be used in different ways.
  • Include vegetables in the main meal recipe, and have some vegetable based meals every week such as:
    • Steam/roast/mash/stuffed/ barbeque/ stir fry with a little oil, garlic and ginger or serve as a salad.
    • Use a variety of colours and textures, include legumes (cooked dried or canned without salt).
    • A wide variety of vegetables can be roasted including onion, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, capsicum, sweet potato, carrot, turnip, swede, white potatoes, chickpeas, tomatoes. Just peel, chop into large pieces and mix with a little unsaturated oil (you can do this by tumbling them together in a plastic bag).  Bake in a moderate oven in a single layer and use baking paper on oven trays for easy clean up.
    • Similarly a wide variety of vegetables can be barbequed including onion, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, capsicum and corn.
    • Try vegetable kebabs.
    • Salads can use a combination of fresh (snow peas and asparagus (blanch these  by dunking in boiling water from the jug), avocado, capsicum, red and spring onion, different lettuces, cucumbers, tomatoes, roasted (pumpkin, capsicum, eggplant, sweet potato) and canned vegetables like corn, bean mix and peas, baby beets, chickpeas (look for the no added salt varieties).
    • Try different dahls made from a variety of lentils and dried peas.

Light meals

  • Add vegetables to sandwiches, rolls and wraps, jacket potatoes, soups or on toast.
  • Cooked vegetable leftovers, tinned fish, no added salt baked beans/creamed corn on toast, with cooked wholegrain side dish or in a jacket potato.

Side dishes

Wholegrain cereals and bread based

  • Variety of wholegrain breads with thin spread unsaturated margarine.
  • Brown rice, barley, polenta, couscous, quinoa, bulgar, pasta.

Garnish with unsalted nuts

  • Sprinkle nuts over stir fry vegetables, salads, stuffed and cooked grains for added nutrients, taste, texture and eye appeal.

Mixed vegetables and grains garnished with nuts

  • Brown rice/couscous/brown rice/pasta mixed with roasted vegetables/ stuffed veg/canned/cooked legumes, canned without salt vegetables, frozen vegetables.


  • Fresh/stewed/poached/grilled/frozen/canned fruit.
  • Fruit set in jelly or in a fruit crumble with low fat yoghurt/custard/flummery or a dollop of low fat ricotta cheese.
  • Fruit platters, fruit salad, fruit strudel.


  • Try whole or sliced fresh fruit or snack sized packs of fruit in juice.
  • Add diced /sliced/grated/frozen fruit or vegetables (corn/carrot/zucchini/ pumpkin) to wholegrain based pikelets/scones/muffins in the batter.
  • Add a thin spread of unsaturated margarine, unsalted nut paste or some fruit on top of cooked pikelets/scones with ricotta cheese and dusted with cinnamon (eg banana, apple, pear, berries, grapes, nectarines or peaches) (great on top of fruit bread, wholegrain English muffins, toast or crumpets too).
  • Try raw vegetables cut into bite sized pieces for a snack or appetiser with drinks.
  • Consider corn on the cob.
  • Use small cans of ‘no added salt’ baked beans, bean salad mix or corn.
  • Consider a small handful of unsalted nuts for older children and adults.

Lunch box ideas

Planning packed lunches and snacks to eat away from home is a great way of choosing a variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups and limiting discretionary foods and extra kilojoules when aiming to lose weight.

Foods and drinks for packing needed to be ‘ready to eat’, to travel well and to be kept safe from bacterial contamination.

Traditional foods like sandwiches and fruit are still a great foundation. There is now a wide range of breads, spreads and fillings available to keep things interesting and more fruit than ever to pick from.

Not all convenience and packaged foods are discretionary foods. Small, individual packs of fruit in juice, low fat yoghurts and custards, low fat cheese slices, unsalted nuts (for older children and adults) and small cans of no added salt baked beans, corn and bean mix can be useful for adding variety and usually have a longer shelf life. Avoid dried fruit that can stick to teeth and cause decay and are high in kilojoules if you are trying to lose weight.

Cooking extra serves of ‘finger foods’ like corn cobs, boiled eggs, chicken drumsticks, meatballs, pikelets, boiled potatoes at meals can be great for lunchboxes too.

A treat in a lunch box doesn’t need to be high in fat, added sugars or added salt. A note of affection, a joke, a sticker, hot cross bun or a few small pieces of special fruit can have the same wow factor.

Preparing lunchboxes the night before saves valuable time and energy.

Freezing a small plastic bottle of water keeps the food cold, fresh and safe and provides a cool refreshing and healthy drink. Avoid fruit juice and sweetened drinks that can contribute to tooth decay and weight gain.

How to boost vegetable and fibre intake

All of us need plenty of fibre from fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and wholegrain breads and cereals to keep us healthy in many ways.

By choosing the right number of serves for your age and sex from the plant based food groups, you will make sure that you are eating enough fibre. You can also check by taking the ‘Are you eating for health?’ quiz in the Dietary Guidelines Summary book.

By eating more fibre, vegetables and fruit, we can feel fuller for fewer kilojoules which is important when trying to lose weight for example, you can halve your kilojoule intake if half your meal is coloured vegetables or salad and you then need less of the other foods on your plate.

Include a wholegrain bread or cereal at breakfast. Without this important source or to start the day will find it hard to meet your fibre requirement.

Keep choosing wholegrain varieties of breads, flours and grains at other meals too.

To boost your fruit intake, include it as a snack, as part of breakfast or as a dessert. However, if you are trying to lose weight, remember to keep within your number of recommended serves of fruit. You can do this by keeping the fruit part of a meal for the next mid meal snack. For example, you might just eat your sandwich filled with plenty of salad vegetables at lunch and keep your piece of fruit to have at afternoon tea. Similarly, you might keep your fruit based dessert from dinner to have later in the evening as a supper snack.

Add vegetables, including legumes, in as many ways as you can:

Pea lettuce soup prepared in white bowl with garnish.
  • As a side dish
  • Included in the main meal recipe
  • Added to sandwiches, rolls and wraps, jacket potatoes, soups or on toast
  • In a snack
  • Most vegetables, cooked in stock and pureed, make a delicious, quick and easy soup for a light meal.

Use unsalted nuts as a snack, garnish or sprinkle but remember to keep portion sizes small if you are aiming to lose weight as they are high in nutrients but also high in kilojoules.

If you have trouble with your teeth, or prefer softer textured foods use more canned and stewed fruit, vegetables soft cooked in soups and casseroles, finely milled wholemeal bread and nut pastes. Cooked vegetables and legumes can be pureed and added to soups and casseroles for a richer, thicker effect.

Photography (top photo): Great Ideas in Nutrition