The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating sets out how much we should eat from each of the food groups. If we eat the recommended number of “standard serves” from each food group for our age and sex, it puts us in a good position to have a healthy, balanced diet.
But what is a standard serve? And does it match what’s on our food labels?
Despite the name, standard serves are not very standard, even in the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Serves can be described by energy (kilojoules or kJ for short) contained in a serve, units of food such as “one medium apple”, or “one slice of bread”, by weight, or by volumes like a cup.
A “serve” is also different between each of the food groups and even within the food groups.
One serve of grains is about 500kJ. That’s one English muffin but only half a bread roll. Or it could be half a cup of porridge, one-quarter of a cup of muesli, or three-quarters of a cup of wheat cereal flakes.
One serve of dairy is 500-600kJ, which could be one cup of milk, but is only three-quarters of a cup of yoghurt, or a half cup of ricotta cheese. Hard cheeses are defined by slices, with two slices to a serve, assuming each slice is about 20g.