What should you be eating for a 'good food day'?

Ever stopped to consider what a healthy diet looks like? Does eating a salad or a burger make a difference to your health and your weight?

Eating a balanced and healthy diet is not the easiest thing to do with all the different advice flying around in the media, so we spoke to Christine Wong, an accredited practicing dietitian at Bupa, to understand what healthy eating looks like, without following any particular diet or restricting ourselves.

Christine was adamant that healthy eating can be an easy habit to get into if you follow a few simple tips.


Healthy plate

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“Most dieticians follow the ‘healthy plate’ model. That is, we recommend that people ‘divide’ their plate into four quarters, with one quarter of the plate made up of carbohydrates, a quarter made up of proteins (chicken, fish, legumes) and then half the plate should be devoted to low kilojoule vegetables (which excludes potato, sweet potato and corn),” she said.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Yet it is not quite that simple, says Christine. It has a lot to do with what you put on the plate as to how healthy your meals are.

You can apply the healthy plate model to a traditional meat and veg dinner or a meal of salad. But it is not so easy to apply it to meals like a burger.

For a healthy plate at lunch or dinner, your plate should be half-filled with salad leaves and low kilojoules vegetables, one quarter should be some lean chicken, lean beef or eggs, or another type of protein. And you should also have a carbohydrate source like potatoes, half a bread roll, or a couple of slices of bread on the side to balance the meal out.

You can use the ‘healthy plate’ method for a salad meal too. An ideal healthy salad should have a good salad vegetable base, without creamy dressings, and without carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta or potato, which are not the best to eat if you are looking for a “low energy” meal. Look out for foods like nuts, cheese and avocado too, all of which are very good for you, but in large amounts, can add up to a lot of energy in your salad. Other high-energy foods to be aware of are deep fried meats, bacon, or croutons, which can also bump up the kilojoules.

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In contrast, a burger isn’t such a healthy option. Burgers are often made up of meat and carbohydrates, and usually won’t fill half of your plate with a salad. This can impact on your kilojoule intake as it will increase the total amount of of energy in your meal. Meat and bread are much higher in energy than salad vegetables, so your overall energy intake will be higher.

To put it all in perspective, you can think about the energy content of a gram of different types of food in kilojoules (kJ):

  • One gram of protein = 17kJ
  • One gram of carbohydrate = 16kJ
  • One gram of fat = 37kJ
  • One gram of alcohol = 29kJ
  • One gram of non-starchy vegetables generally contain minimal energy.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines outline the number of servings and types of portions you should consider:

ProteinEnergy per serveServe size
The guidelines recommend 2-3 portions of protein per dayOne serve contains about 500-600kJA piece of steak or chicken breast the size of your palm
CarbohydrateEnergy per serveServe size
The guidelines recommend approximately 6 portions of carbohydrates per day. More mature people may choose to consume less carbohydrates as they may burn slightly less energy in a day.One serve equals approximately 500kJ
  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ cup of cooked rice or pasta
  • 1/4 cup of muesli or 2/3 of a cup of cereal flakes
Non-starchy vegetablesEnergy per serveServe size
The guidelines recommend 5 servings of vegetables per dayContains minimal kilojoules1 cup of uncooked salad vegetables or ½ cup of cooked vegetables.
DairyEnergy per serveServe size
The guidelines recommend 2.5 serves per dayOne serve contains about 500-600kJ
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 slices (40g) hard cheese
  • ¾ cup (200g) yoghurt
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It is important to be aware of how much energy is found in each type of food you eat. Click here to explore how much energy is in your favourite food items


This post is sponsored by Bupa. It was written as we feel it delivers valuable insights into a subject important to the Starts at 60 community. For further information, please visit the Bupa website