Australian Guide to Healthy Eating 

What is the “Only sometimes and in small amounts” section? 

The “Only sometimes and in small amounts” section of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is a group of foods that don’t quite fit into any of the core five food groups.  

The five food groups are the everyday foods that help promote health and prevent chronic disease as they provide positive nutrients, such as fibre, vitamins and minerals, that we typically need more of. 

The “Only sometimes and in small amounts” foods contain added sugar or can be higher in salt or saturated fat, which we typically get too much of in our diet. They also tend to be higher in energy. The Australian dietary guidelines recommends eating less of these foods to promote health and prevent chronic disease. 

So, should we avoid these foods to have better health?  

Not necessarily. 

It is recommended to eat from the five core food groups every day because those foods have a higher nutritional value but avoiding the “Only sometimes and in small amounts” foods altogether is not necessary. 

Although these foods are not recommended as everyday foods, they can have a place in a healthy diet. When we restrict certain foods altogether, it may make us eat more of them in the long run. This is because when we finally allow ourselves to eat the “banned or restricted” food, we may end up eating more than we need. When we eat too much of the ‘Only sometimes and small amounts” foods it can fill us up and make it hard to eat enough from the five core food groups, potentially missing out on  nutrients we need for good health. 

It’s important to note that alcoholic drinks also fall into the “sometimes and small amounts” category. It is recommended alcoholic drinks are consumed in small amounts or not at all due to the associated health risks associated. Current guidelines recommend no more than 10 standard drinks in a week, with no more than 4 on any one day.   

What place do “Only sometimes and in small amounts foods” have in our diet? 

All foods can be a part of healthy eating. Yes, even chocolate and ice cream! 

These foods are often celebration foods, cultural foods or comfort foods, and they can be a very enjoyable part of a healthy diet. Imagine a kid’s birthday without a birthday cake or an easter egg hunt without a chocolate egg! 

So how often is sometimes and how much is a small amount?

This is different for different people. Some people use lots of energy, so they need to eat more energy dense food, like some of the “sometimes and small amounts” foods.  

How often depends on how often they use lots of energy. 

For most people, no more than 3 serves a day allows plenty of room within a day to eat everyday foods from the five food groups. Eating too much “sometimes and small amounts” food can reduce the amount of the five food groups we can eat or just add more energy than a person is using in a day. 

What do 3 serves look like? 

Not much! One serve is a fun size Mars bar, a party pie or 2 sweet biscuits. Being aware of the serve sizes will help you keep track of your “sometimes and in small amounts foods” so you don’t overdo it too often. Adding in foods from the five food groups is a good way of making your “sometimes and small amounts” foods go a bit further. For example, adding fruit to your ice-cream or a handful of berries when you’re snacking on chocolate can help stretch out those foods you enjoy whilst also contributing to positive nutrients for your body. 

It’s important to remember we need to eat a variety of foods from the five food groups every day as these foods provide the positive nutrients our bodies need for good health. The “sometimes and small amounts” foods are not necessarily eaten for health but can form part of a healthy balanced diet. 

For more information you can head to eatforhealth.gov.au to find out more information about the Australian Dietary Guidelines or you can check out nom.org.au to find a nutrition education and cooking program. When you attend a nom! program you’ll learn all about the Australian Dietary Guidelines as well as how to cook delicious recipes using everyday foods from the five food groups. 

Looking for some healthier alternatives to “Only sometimes and in small amounts” foods? check out our wholesome everyday healthy recipes and resources available at the Superhero Foods HQ