Only 50 per cent of Australians eat the right amount of fruit and vegetables. Here are some tried and true tips, tricks and strategies to include more fruits and vegetables in your family diet.   

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us, and there is very good research confirming this. Not only do fruit and vegetables have protective effects for reducing our chance of getting cancer and heart disease, but anyone who eats the recommended amounts of two fruits and five vegetables are more likely to be a healthy weight.  

Adults are recommended to eat two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables, legumes or beans. The recommendations for children can be seen in the table. 

      Serves per day* 
    13-23 months  2-3 years  4-8 years  9-11 years  12-13 years  14-18 years 
Vegetables and legumes/beans  Boy  2-3  2 ½   4 ½   5  5 ½   5 ½  
Girl  2-3  2 ½   4 ½   5  5  5 
Fruit  Boy  ½   1  1 ½   2  2  2 
Girl  ½   1  1 ½   2  2  2 


*Additional amounts may be needed by children who are taller or more active 

What is a serve? 

A standard serve of vegetables is about 75g or: 

  • ½ cup cooked vegetables 
  • ½ cup cooked or canned beans, peas or lentils 
  • 1 cup salad vegetables 
  • ½ medium potato (no chips!) 
  • 1 medium tomato 


A standard serve of fruit is about 150g or: 

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear 
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruit or plums 
  • 1 cup canned fruit (no added sugar) 


Tip 1: Chat about Fruits and Vegetables 

Do you know what your children’s favourite fruit and vegetable is? I found it a fun exercise to ask my children. My seven year old daughter said mango and broccoli, and my three year old son said banana and carrot. This question led into a chat about fruits and vegetables and why they are so important in our diet. It is important to keep any conversation about food fun, light hearted and age appropriate.  

 I like to tell my children that fruits and vegetables are ‘super’ foods because of their different colours. For example, strawberries have folate in them which is important for our blood cells to grow. Mandarins and oranges have Vitamin C to help us stay well and heal cuts and bruises. Broccoli and baby spinach contain Vitamin A which is important to help us see at night and grow strong teeth. An easy way to find out more about fruits and vegetables is to Google them! 


Berry Smoothie
Serve 2
1 cup milk
½ cup baby spinach
½ cup frozen berries
2 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup ice

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Can add some honey to taste if desired. The spinach is hidden by the delicious berries!

Tip 2: Are they really hungry? 

If only I had a dollar for every time I heard one of my children say ‘I’m hungry’! My three year old will say this often after finishing his breakfast of three Weetbix, some oats and sultanas. So I am pretty confident that he isn’t hungry and I use this opportunity to ask him if his tummy is making hungry sounds or if he would like to play with his trains/get out his crayons or read a book. Usually it is just boredom and once I have set him up in an activity he is happy. 

Children have little tummies and can easily fill up on milk or juice (which I say doesn’t count as a serve of fruit because most juices don’t contain fibre). It can be useful to keep a food diary for a few days of what your child is eating as this can provide some clues on areas to improve. 

Tip 3: Encouragement and Praise

Children need to be offered, and encouraged, to eat foods. Vegetables are the most often rejected food – but each vegetable needs to be offered at least eight times before becoming a trusted and accepted food. I know just how frustrating it can be to see a child eat only one pea and refuse any more but the key is repetition, encouragement and praise.  

The jury is still out on rewards. The long standing ‘eat all your vegetables and you can have some ice cream’ can do more harm than good. If this is something that you are saying most nights then it probably isn’t working. The time when rewards of this nature can work is to encourage a child to try a food. If your child is refusing to even try different fruits or vegetables, a promise of a reward can work to encourage tasting, but after this it loses its value and may even cause a child to dislike a food even more. Beware of this backfiring! Noticing when they have made an effort and commenting on this goes a long way to improving eating habits. 

Tips from other Mums!

– Be creative and use cutters to cut fruit and vegetables into shapes

– Hide the vegetables!

– Eat together as a family

– Get the children to help prepare and cook the meal. From about the age of two children can start to use peelers to peel carrots/potatoes/sweet potatoes

– Grow some vegetables in your backyard

– Make fresh fruit ice lollies – puree some watermelon and add some sliced bananas, kiwi fruit and strawberries and put in ice moulds

– Frozen peas and corn make great snacks over the warmer months

– Vegetable pizzas with different vegetable pictures, such as a garden – broccoli for trees, carrot and peas for flowers

– Lots of different vegetables in small amounts often work better than just a couple of vegetables in big quantities

Tip 4: Plan to eat fruit and vegetables 

As parents we are in the powerful position of influencing what our children eat – but of course we aren’t the only influence – and our level of influence decreases as the children get older. So start early is my advice! If children see their parents eating and enjoying plenty of fruit and vegetables, then children are more likely to do the same. Children are more likely to adopt healthy eating behaviours when they have more than one person to imitate – so recruit as many family members as possible! 

 Children are often wary of foods, particularly foods that they haven’t enjoyed previously. Dinner time can be a particularly difficult time of day to encourage children to eat as they are often tired after a long day. If this is the case try lunch time and snacks to offer new fruits and vegetables when they are likely to be more receptive. Whole pieces of fruit such as bananas, apples and pears, or offering tomato and avocado on crackers or some vegetables sticks with peanut butter or a dip, are some easy, healthy snack options. 

Tip 5: Shop together 

I know that shopping with children is often one of the least favourite things to do. It is frustrating how things can take longer, packets can jump off shelves courtesy of little hands, and tantrums can occur. Consider visiting a fruit and vegetable market or your local farmers market with your child or children as an outing and opportunity for them to choose a fruit or vegetable that is in season that they would like to try. The rule is that whatever your child chooses you must buy and prepare, and you as the parent must try the food too. 

Empowering your child to make decisions about fruits and vegetables means they are more likely to try the food because they have been involved in the process.  

Finally, consistency plays a big role in getting children to eat their fruit and vegetables. There are always going to be those days where it comes down to a boiled egg and toast for dinner – but it is all about what happens most of the time.   

Almost every packaged food we pick up in the supermarket will have a food label – but who knows how to read and interpret the information on the food label? I am the first to put my hand up and say that food labels can be confusing, but armed with some handy information, food labels can become useful tools in helping choose the right foods for you and your family. 


Here in Australia, food that is packaged and manufactured must have a food label. There are a few exceptions to this rule including fresh food such as fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, very small packages or single herbs and spices. A food label will usually including the following: 

  • Ingredient list 
  • Nutrition information panel 
  • Allergen statement  
  • Product and brand name of the food 
  • Use by date or best before date 


Ingredient list 

Let’s start by looking at the ingredient list. I will often refer to the ingredient list first when I look at a food label as I like to know what I am buying and eating. Ingredients are listed in order of descending weight, so the first ingredient listed is the main ingredient in the food and the last ingredient is the smallest. If you see that sugar, fat or salt are one of the first three ingredients, then perhaps that food isn’t the healthiest choice. It’s also important to note that sugar, fat and salt may be listed as many different names.  

Other names for Sugar, Fat & Salt 

Below is a copy of a nutrition information panel from a yoghurt that was in my fridge. 


Nutrition Information Panel 

Servings per package: 4 

Serving size: 250g 

Here are my five steps to successfully reading a nutrition information panel: 


  1. Always look at the ‘per 100g’ column as this is always on foods and allows you to compare between products. The other column ‘per serve’ is determined by the food manufacturer and may be much smaller than the amount of food that you eat. Breakfast cereals are a good example – the serve size of breakfast cereals will be different from Weetbix to Cheerios to muesli, for example. But if you look at the per 100g column you will be able to compare and decide which is the best choice for you. 
  1. Energy per 100g – after the ingredient list, this is the second thing that I look at on a food label as it gives me a quick idea of whether a food is going to be a good choice. Great when you don’t have much time and a child or three in tow! 
  1. Total fat and saturated fat – As a quick scan, the best choice is to look for products with less than 3g total fat/100g and less than 1.5g saturated fat/100g. Next best is between 3-20g total fat/100g and 1.5-5g saturated fat/100g – which is where my yoghurt from the above nutrition information panel fits, as this is a full fat yoghurt. 
  1. Sugar – look for foods with less than 5g sugar/100g. Keep in mind that sugar includes naturally occurring sugar, such as lactose in dairy products, as well as added sugar as in biscuits. So if you are choosing muesli, you might see it is high in sugar and wonder why. This is where it can be useful to look at the ingredient list – where is the sugar coming from? Is it coming from dried fruit (where you also get the benefit of fibre) or is it from honey that is used in toasting the muesli? Again, this is shown in the above nutrition information panel, as the extra carbohydrate and sugars is from lactose. Next best option is to look for sugars between 5.0-12.5g sugar/100g. 
  1. Sodium/salt – look for foods with less than 300mg salt/100g. 


There are always exceptions. For example choosing an olive oil means that you will not be able to find one with less than 3g total fat/100g – so here is where common sense needs to kick in.  

Nutrition Claims 

I would encourage you to be a savvy label reader. Food manufacturers want us to buy their products. Here are a few common claims that you may see on food packaging – and what they really mean: 

  • ‘Lite’ or ‘light’ does not necessary mean it is low in fat. It may also be referring to the colour or taste of the food. 
  • ‘Baked not fried’ sounds like it must be healthier doesn’t it?! Always check the nutrition information panel as it can have just as many kilojoules and fat as a fried food. 
  • ’93 per cent fat free’ still contains 7 per cent fat (or 7g fat/100g) which doesn’t make it the healthiest choice. 
  • ‘Reduced fat’ means the product should have at least 25 per cent less fat than the original product. But the food may still have more fat than another similar food. 

Accredited Practising Dietitian, founder of and Mum of three, Kate Bullen has gone from A for Additives to Z for Zinc, providing you a guide to keeping your family’s food healthy and nutritional.




Additives – may include preservatives that help keep our food safe to eat, or colours and flavours added to make food tastier and more appealing to eat. Most people don’t react to food additives, but some people do. If you think your child might be reacting to food additives, please speak to an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Breakfast – it really is the most important meal of the day. Research has shown that children who eat breakfast are more likely to have a healthy diet. Quick and easy breakfasts include a piece of fruit, some toast, a smoothie or a couple of Weetbix with milk.

Calcium – needed for strong bones, which is most important in growing children. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are our best sources of calcium. But, we can also get calcium from other foods including almonds, tahini, salmon and dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and bok choy.

Drinks – the easiest, cheapest and healthiest drink is water, followed by milk. Drinks are important to stop children getting dehydrated – particularly in our hot summer months. Encourage regular drinks of water throughout the day and get children in the habit of having water as their first choice of drink.

Eggs – boiled eggs are our family’s easy meal. My children will have boiled eggs at least once a week – add a bit of salad to the plate, and some toast – and an easy, healthy and tasty meal is ready to eat. Children typically love eggs and they are a good powerhouse food with plenty of protein and other vitamins and minerals.

Fruit – summer fruit is the best! Watermelon, grapes, mangoes, stonefruit – all so tasty and plentiful. Fruit is great for snacks, but also delicious when whizzed up with some milk and yoghurt to make a smoothie, or used in baking muffins. Frozen grapes are an easy fruit to add into the lunchbox – and stay cool till lunch which increases the chances of them being eaten!


Genetically Modified Food – relatively new in Australia, and really comes down to personal choice. As yet we don’t know if there are any long term effects of eating genetically modified food. Most foods will be labelled if they contain genetically modified ingredients.

Hunger – does this phrase sound familiar “Mum – I’m hungry”? I hear this many times a day! Sometimes it’s true hunger, sometimes it’s ‘boredom hunger’. Children typically need to eat every two to three hours as they only have little stomachs – so this can be a clue as to whether they are truly hungry. If you don’t think your child is hungry, try re-directing them to another activity until it is time to eat to avoid ‘boredom eating’.

Iron – if you have a teenager at home, you might want to check if they are getting enough iron as the amount of iron they need increases during the teen years. If they don’t get enough iron, anaemia can develop. The best sources of iron are red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, wholegrain breads and cereals.

Junk food – it is almost impossible to completely avoid junk food, but keep it to special occasions. Once a week is occasional, when junk food is eaten every day then you may need to reassess a child’s diet.

Kilojoules – the preferred unit of measuring energy in Australia, abbreviated to kj. Kilojoules are what you will see referred to on food labels. Calories are the alternative measure of energy. One calorie = 4.186 kilojoules.

Legumes – baked beans, chick peas, lentils and kidney beans are all lentils (sometimes also called ‘pulses’). They are a great sources of protein and fibre – try adding some legumes into your next mince dish. Lentils go almost unnoticed by children, so can be a good one to try.

Meat – choose lean meat with very little visible fat. Red meat such as beef and lamb is a great source of iron and zinc.  Eating lean meat a couple of times a week is a great way to make sure your kids get plenty of these nutrients.

Nuts – fantastic sources of protein, fibre and vitamins. Great snacks for older children, although not appropriate for taking to school due to the risk for any children with nut allergies.

Overweight and obesity – current research shows that 23 per cent of primary school aged children are overweight or obese. If you are concerned about your child, speak with your GP and an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Probiotics – good bacteria to help keep the digestive system healthy.  Most useful to reduce the likelihood of antibiotic-induced diarrhoea. Whenever my children have a dose of antibiotics, I usually get some probiotic yoghurt and milk drinks to have daily for a couple of weeks.

Recipes – involve your children in cooking and planning family meals, and they will be more likely to eat the food. This is a win-win!

Sugar – naturally occurring sugar in fruit and milk is unlikely to be a concern in a child’s diet as they provide other important nutrients. Added sugar in foods (eg. biscuits, cakes) is something to watch out for, as sugar can be easily over-eaten – particularly by children.

Trans Fat – avoid as can increase cholesterol levels. Most often found in processed foods such as biscuits and pastries, fried foods and takeaways.

Underweight – less common than overweight, but can still be cause for concern. If you are worried about the weight of your child, please speak to your GP or an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

Vegetables – very few of us eat enough vegetables. Children will typically model their eating from their parents. If there is one change you make to your families eating, then I would strongly encourage it to be eating more vegetables. This is a change you won’t regret!

Whole grains – choose whole grains instead of refined and processed grains to get more fibre and antioxidants.

Zinc – essential for normal growth and development in children. Good sources of zinc include lean meat, chicken, fish, lentils, nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereals.

For more information, head to Kate Bullen’s website

Meal sizes have increased and consequently our bodies are getting are consuming extra kilojoules that we usually don’t need. Take the quiz to see how switched on you are about knowing the right portion to eat?

Let’s look at portions and how much we eat. Have you noticed that portion sizes of food have increased over the last few decades? The size of a slice of white bread has increased by 11 per cent, blocks of chocolate are now readily available as 350g giant blocks while 10 years ago the standard block was 250g. Even the size of the standard dinner plate has increased! 

When eating out, there is often the option to upsize your takeaway coffee, smoothie or soft drink. Meal deals come with a soft drink and there are those ginormous buckets of popcorn at the movies – I don’t remember those when I was a kid!  Unfortunately what our bodies are getting is extra kilojoules that we usually don’t need.

Research out of America shows that it only takes an extra 82 kilojoules (about one-third of an apple) each day for us to gain one kilogram of fat each year.

Research out of America shows that it only takes an extra 82 kilojoules (about one-third of an apple) each day for us to gain one kilogram of fat each year. It all adds up!

It is easy to overdo food portions, so rather than avoiding the food, know your portions.

Here are a few quick quiz questions to help you get your portions right:

1. A serve of nuts is:

a) 10g

b) 30g

c) Unlimited as nuts contain good fats

2. A muffin bought from a shop can contain 10 teaspoons of sugar:

a) True

b) False

3. A 600ml bottle of regular soft drink has around 16 teaspoons of sugar and over 1000 kilojoules. This is equivalent to:

a) 3 Tim Tams

b) 3.5 whole apples

c) 1 cup of ice cream

d) All of the above

4. One serve of pasta or rice is:

a) One cup

b) Half a cup

c) Two cups

5. A serve of meat is:

a) About the size of a deck of cards

b) The size of your hand

c) The size of your foot

6. A serve of avocado is:

a) 1 whole avocado

b) ½ avocado

c) ¼ avocado

Nuts are a great source of healthy fat – but they are easy to overeat. Limit the amount of nuts to a small handful and bulk it up with some freshly popped corn or puffed rice.

Store bought or even packaged cakes and biscuits often contain as much sugar as you need for the entire day. Choose a healthier option such as a punnet of berries, a banana or even a plain wholegrain bread roll.

Soft drinks just don’t provide any value to our diet at all. They are high in sugar and kilojoules, and they are easy to drink too much of. Diet soft drinks are an option, but your health is going to thank you if you reach for a large water – still or sparkling. While on the subject of drinks, energy drinks, cordial, juice and sports drinks all fall into pretty much the same category as soft drink. They don’t offer any nutrition and can easily just add unnecessary extra sugar and kilojoules.

Pasta and rice are very easy to over serve. One cup – or about the size of a tennis ball – is one serve. Instead load your plate up with green leafy vegetables such as rocket, broccoli or spinach.

If you are cooking up a BBQ then this analogy of a meat serve is a good one to keep in mind – a deck of cards is all we need as a serve each day. Keep your meat trim and add flavour with marinades.

Avocado is a brilliant summer food – but it is easy to overeat. Certainly a fantastic choice and I would rather you chose avocado over soft drink, but always a good reminder that eating that one quarter of an avocado is a portion. And I quite like adding avocado to a greek salad – it’s a great flavour addition.

Here are a few tips to help control your portions:

– Share a meal – halve your meal when eating out and your portion will be much closer to what it should be. And you will save money – another bonus!

– Use a smaller plate – we eat with our eyes first. A smaller plate will look full, but you will be eating less.

– Skip second helpings – slow down your eating and be more mindful of when you are feeling full.

– Don’t finish everything on your plate – most of us have been brought up to eat everything served to us. Instead, eat slowly and stop when you are full.



The meatballs are perfect in burgers or the next day as picnic food.


  • 1kg lean beef mince
  • Ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon or honey mustard
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tabasco sauce
  • 2 egg yolks

Mix all ingredients in a bowl and make into balls.
Cook on a BBQ or frypan over medium high heat until browned and cooked through.

Greek Salad


  • 6 firm ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 cucumbers, chopped
  • 1 red capsicum, deseeded, chopped
  • 200g olives
  • 200g feta, chopped
  • 1 teaspoons dried oregano
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 30ml white vinegar


  1. Combine tomato, cucumber, capsicum, olives and feta in a bowl. Sprinkle with oregano.
  2. Whisk together the oil and vinegar. Drizzle salad with dressing and toss salad to combine. Serve immediately or place in fridge until ready to eat.

Quiz Question Answers: 1 b. 2a. 3d. 4a. 5a. 6c.

Take a trip to your local market to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables to improve your mental health and happiness. Fresh fruit and veggies contain important carbohydrates, B Vitamins and antioxidants and we can’t expect tablets to provide us with the same results.

Recent research from Australia and England measured 12,000 people’s happiness and wellbeing. The research focused on whether there were improvements in people’s wellbeing after eating more fruit and vegetables. People were asked a few questions about how often they ate fruit and vegetables and how much they ate. Two years later they were asked the same questions. The outcome was positive for those who had increased the amount of fruit and vegetables, resulting in increased happiness and wellbeing.

Why am I writing about food and happiness? We know mental illness is common. Around 20 per cent of Australians experience a mental illness in any year. Teenagers and young adults (18 to 24 year olds) are most likely to show signs of mental illness of any age group. If we can set up good eating habits now for our children, then this could help reduce and improve their happiness, and maybe improve their mental health.

Of course food is just one part of improving our mental health and happiness. There are many, many factors including genetics and where we live, for example, that also impact on our happiness. Exercise, getting out in the sunshine, fresh air and being with supportive friends, are all healthy strategies that we can encourage our children to do.

In Australia we have the ‘Go for 2 fruit and 5 veg’ campaign which aims to increase awareness of the need to eat more fruit and vegetables. The campaign also offers useful tips and strategies to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat.

The research suggests that fruits and vegetables might impact on our mental health and happiness based on the following components that are in fruits and vegetables:


Fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index release glucose in a slow and steady fashion which may help to regulate our moods and our happiness.

Carbohydrate type

We know that when we eat fruits and vegetables, our body releases insulin and causes the carbohydrate to be broken down into glucose. Our brain is then triggered to make important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which can affect our mood. Fruits and vegetables with a low glycemic index release glucose in a slow and steady fashion which may help to regulate our moods and our happiness. Unlike highly processed food (think: lollies, cake, biscuits) which give that sugar hit that we can all relate to (think: kids just came home from a birthday party) usually results in a pretty big crash in mood. So, slow and steady wins the race.

B vitamins

Fruits and vegetables are great sources of B vitamins, including folate and vitamin B6. These two vitamins are again important in our brains making serotonin and other chemicals that affect mood.  Low levels of B vitamins may be linked to depression. As an aside, Vitamin B12 is also an important B group vitamin in helping making serotonin and other neurotransmitters. Vitamin B12 is not usually found in fruits and vegetables, but instead in fish, lean meat, eggs and dairy – so all food groups are important.


Take a trip to your fruit and vegetable market and stock up. Even better take your children with you and let them choose some of the fruits and vegetables.


Research looking at antioxidant content in fruits and vegetables has increased over the last few decades. Vitamins C and E and other components such as phytochemicals, are all found in fruits and vegetables. It is thought that these types of antioxidants protect our body cells against damage and they may also reduce body inflammation, which has been linked to poor mental health.

I would like to emphasise the importance of eating fresh (or frozen, tinned) fruit and vegetables and not just taking a few multivitamins and antioxidant tablets. Not only are fruits and vegetables cheaper, but more and more the research is showing the importance of eating the whole food and we can’t just isolate certain components of food into a tablet and expect the same results. So, take a trip to your fruit and vegetable market and stock up. Even better take your children with you and let them choose some of the fruits and vegetables.

Low glycemic fruits and vegetables

Fruits: Apples, bananas, strawberries, kiwi fruit, oranges, berries (fresh or frozen, mango, pear

Vegetables: Sweetcorn, carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, capsicum, celery, tomatoes, zucchini, snow peas, green beans, eggplant, mushrooms, avocadoes

Make a toastie with these delicious fruit and vegetable fillings:

  • Banana, ricotta cheese, sultanas and pinch cinnamon
  • Grated cheese, tomato, avocado
  • Baby spinach, avocado, cheese
  • Ham, cheese, pineapple
  • Baked beans, mushroom, cheese
  • Tinned tuna/salmon, cheese, sweetcorn
  • Chicken, coleslaw, cheese

Recipe – Chicken & vegetable kebabs

Serves 3-4


500g chicken breast fillets, sliced

1 cup of chopped vegetables per person (eg: mushroom, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, zucchini)

½ tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp curry powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Steamed rice to serve


1. Alternate vegetables and chicken onto skewers, place in shallow dish.

2. Combine coriander, cumin, curry powder, olive oil, brown sugar and fish sauce in bowl. Pour over skewers. Cover, refrigerate skewers for at least one hour.

3. Grill skewers until cooked. Serve with steamed rice.

Dietitian, Kate Bullen, provides a Survival Guide for keeping your family’s nutrition on track this Christmas.

Christmas is a time of holidays, celebration, relaxing and having fun. It is often also a time for over indulging, with many adults gaining a couple of kilograms from eating extra kilojoules. And it happens quickly – an extra rum ball here, an extra glass of champagne there and a couple of slices of camembert on water crackers and BAM! There is your extra couple of kilograms over a month.

Here are my five top tips to get you and your family through the Christmas holidays in the healthiest possible way:

Quality not quantity

This season mangoes are predicted to be expensive. Don’t let this stop you from buying this delicious fruit or other expensive fruits such as cherries. Cherries might be $15 per kilogram or more – but compare this to a block of chocolate at around $20 per kilogram and suddenly it is all put in perspective.

I like to consider quality when it comes to protein foods – as you often get what you pay for. Sausages may be liked by your children, but they are typically high in salt, fat and many other things when you look at the ingredient list. Instead choose seafood, lean meat or chicken without skin. Did you know that an average thick sausage contains around 1100kJ – the same as in 3 cups of prawns?

Christmas is also a time of buying a lot of food and it is easy to over-buy. Keep a check on this – the shops only shut for one day so there really is no need to stockpile anything. Remember – fresh is best! Even better plan your Christmas shopping in advance and shop online and avoid the chaos and queues.

Cherries might be $15 per kilogram or more – but compare this to a block of chocolate at around $20 per kilogram and suddenly it is all put in perspective.

More vegetables and fruit

Summer fruit is the best! Berries, stone fruit, melons – there are so many delicious options. And don’t forget about frozen options. I always have frozen raspberries and mangoes in the freezer to whip up some smoothies. And I chop and freeze those slightly overripe bananas – great instant ice cream when blended. Add some cocoa to make it choc-banana. Frozen grapes are another favourite in our house. Great on hot afternoons.

We live on salad in summer – so many greens to choose from. My children are not the biggest fans of lettuce or baby spinach, but I serve it up and ask them to at least try it. Increased exposure is key to expanding taste buds. No force feeding – it doesn’t work.

Try finding opportunities for extra vegetables. When getting out the cheese and biscuits, take a few extra minutes to chop up some vegetables and add some dip to go with it. Pre-chopped vegetables last for a good few days in the fridge – great to do ahead and save time. Fresh corn on the cob is another popular vegetable – so easy over summer and healthy


The shops only shut for one day so there really is no need to stockpile anything – remember, fresh is best!

Make it fun

We are all very visual in our eating – especially children. Add some fun by buying Christmas plates to enjoy summer meals on. Dinner with a Santa plate might just help get that extra serve of salad eaten by your children. Fresh air popped corn served in Christmas cupcake cases make it all that bit more special and appealing. A pop corn machine is a fantastic Christmas present I might add!

Stay cool

We have hot summers here in Australia and my children are loving having icy poles for breakfast – yes breakfast! Blend some oats, ripe banana, milk and freeze. Sometimes I blend some almonds and chia as well for a protein kick. Also great for our hot afternoons when everyone is getting a bit tired.

My children will often go to the freezer and get a plain ice block to suck on – instantly cooling and refreshing. So we now make some tasty fruit and vegetable blocks that they can enjoy. Current favourite combinations blended up are:

  • Strawberry & baby spinach
  • Avocado & coconut milk
  • Orange & carrot
  • Watermelon & raspberry
  • Blueberry & cucumber

I often make a batch of chocolate protein balls and keep them in the freezer. Such a tasty pick me up in the afternoon and the children love them – as do I!


Everyone is busy at this time of year – so take some time for yourselves and your children to relax. Your bodies and your health will thank you!

Another important part of enjoying the festive season is to not deprive yourself. If you really enjoy Christmas stuffing then have some – just don’t eat all of it. Same with desserts – have some and don’t go back for seconds. Weight loss is probably not going to occur at this time of year, so instead aim for weight maintenance until Christmas is over. It is all about being realistic!

Deluxe Chia Puddings

(Serve 4)

1/3 cup chia seeds

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 can lite coconut cream

Chopped fruit to serve

Place chia seeds, maple syrup and coconut cream in a bowl and stir well. Cover and place in fridge overnight to thicken. Top with fruit.

Breakfast icy poles

(makes 4)

Green layer – ½ cup baby spinach & 1 kiwi fruit – blended with a handful of ice

Banana layer – ½ cup oats blended until fine, 1 banana, ½ cup milk – all blended with a handful of ice.

Put green layer into each icy pole mold. Place in freezer for 30 minutes. Add banana layer on top and return to freezer until solid.



Kate Bullen is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Mum to a seven year old, four year old and 18 month old. More information can be found at

Christmas and the summer holidays are a great time of fun, inclusive of lots of delicious food, but moderation is key to enjoying a happy and healthful festive period.

My nine year old daughter came home this week and asked for some help with her spelling homework – antonyms were the task. So as we talked through antonyms for words such as natural (abnormal was the antonym we came up with) and it made me think about Christmas time and the summer holidays that are just around the corner.

The one word that I try to live by during this busy season is ‘moderation’ to which I think the antonym would be ‘excessive’. When it comes to healthy eating I try not to live by too many rules, but ‘everything in moderation’ is certainly my motto. So I thought I would explore this motto further.

What is moderation?

I describe moderation as making sure the five food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, protein foods and dairy/alternatives) make up the vast majority of our diet. And within each of these food groups make a note to check the quality of food that you are eating. Are there improvements that could be made? Instead of the muesli bars that you have been buying for snacks, could you instead make a big batch of your own trail mix?


Travelling Trail Mix

Mix together some sunflower seeds, pepitas, dried apricots (or dried fruit of your choice), pretzels and nuts. Portion out into snack size zip lock bags.



Plan ahead

Planning ahead is important. If you are catching up with friends for a BBQ, plan to have a smaller lunch than usual or the day after you might have smaller portions to balance it all out. Even getting your lunch ready in the morning when you have your breakfast (much like packing a school lunch) means that your next meal is ready to go and you are much less likely to choose food that is not such a good choice. My best days are when my meals are prepped early to eat.

I love serving up food on platters for children and adults. Platters are perfect for lunches, snacks, dinners or any get together. Children love making their own choices, so including lots of good choices on a platter supports this.


Share Platters: Perfect for holiday lunches, snacks, dinners or any get together

Mixed fruit platter


  • Carrot, celery, cucumber, capsicum, snow peas, tomato, mushrooms, broccoli, steamed corn, roast potato, etc.



  • Watermelon, stone fruit, bananas, kiwi fruit, strawberries, pineapple, grapes, etc.


Grain foods

  • Cold cooked pasta, pitta bread, wholegrain crackers, dry cereal, fresh popcorn


Protein foods

  • Grilled fish, boiled eggs, grilled/steamed chicken, cold roast meats, meat balls


Dairy and alternatives

  • Cheese, tofu, frozen yoghurt blocks, mini frittatas



  • Sugary drinks such as cordial, juice, soft drink
  • Lollies
  • Packaged and processed food such as biscuits, crisps, cakes, ice cream, sausages, chocolate


How hungry are you?

This is a key point – take time to notice if you are truly hungry. Recently my six year old and three year old only ate half of the piece of birthday cake that was given to them. Rather than telling them they needed to finish it first (which I often overhear at birthday parties) I said that we could put the cake away for later if they felt like it. Children have an innate sense of knowing when they have had enough to eat. We adults could learn from them!

Notice the smell, taste and texture of food … there is great research now showing the importance of mindfulness in our eating.

As adults we can practice mindfulness with our eating by eating a bit slower. Next time you sit down to eat (I know – sitting down is a luxury – but it is important) put a bite of food into your mouth, put down your cutlery, chew slowly and take a big breath when you have finished that mouthful. Notice the smell, taste and texture of food. Yes this will take longer, but there is great research now showing the importance of mindfulness in our eating. And this strategy can be used with others around, simply by taking a small break in between mouthfuls.

Water – the best choice

Sugary drinks such as juice, cordial, soft drink, sports drinks are best avoided. They offer no nutrition at all – instead choose a water or sparkling water to keep you well hydrated over the summer months.

Fish food

“There are many health benefits to eating fish – even for children, including improvements in academic performance, and improved blood levels.”

Try to include some fish and/or seafood a couple of times a week – a great lean protein food to include over the summer months that keeps us full thanks to the good omega-3 fats that it contains. Only 20 per cent of Australian households eat the recommended two serves of fish per week, with cost being the main reason why people don’t eat fish. There are many health benefits to eating fish – even for children, including improvements in academic performance, and improved blood levels. And don’t forget that tinned fish is a great option and easy to keep in the pantry.

And finally, enjoy the Christmas and holiday period!


Salmon Fishcakes Recipe

Fish Cakes


400g salmon, no skin

2 x potatoes

1 x sweet potato

2 tablespoons light coconut milk

Chopped fresh herbs such as chives or coriander

1-2 tablespoons of curry paste eg: green curry paste


Olive oil

Salad to serve


1. Peel potato and sweet potato and cut in chunks. Steam for 12-15 minutes, or until softened. Allow to cool. Mash.

2. Chop salmon into small cubes. It doesn’t have to be really small as it cooks quickly.

3. Add salmon to potato mix with coconut milk.

4. Add fresh herbs and curry paste and mix fishcake mixture. (I usually split the mixture into two and leave the curry paste out of one portion for the kids)

5. Roll approximately ¼ cup of mixture in breadcrumbs, cover and refrigerate until needed.

6. Pre-heat frypan or BBQ with minimal amount of olive oil. Grill on each side for 3-4 minutes or until browned.

7. Enjoy with plenty of salad.

What would you choose – a plate of fresh crisp vegetables or a hamburger from a big multinational? Research shows that for people who eat enough vegetables it has become a habit.

It’s the food choices we make for ourselves and our children that become lifelong habits.

I think we all agree that eating vegetables is important for our health. Some vegetables are an ‘acquired’ taste, so I hope to provide some tips which will help you acquire this all-important taste.

According to research from peer-reviewed scientific journals, the top three reasons for people not eating enough vegetables are:

1. Storage – not enough space to keep vegetables in the fridge or cupboard, and vegetables going off and needing to be thrown out.
2.Purchase – frustration with the price and quality of vegetables.
3. Preparation – unsure how to prepare vegetables for eating, or in a way that the taste is appealing.

With this in mind, here are five tips to increase vegetable consumption in your household:

1. Vegetables as an entrée.

My children currently have a love of raw baby carrots – washed, but not peeled. Sometimes it’s all about finding the novelty in food. I will often serve up a plate of raw and steamed vegetables such as carrots, cucumber, tomato, capsicum, mushroom, broccoli and beans and offer this as the entrée before the rest of their dinner is served. This entrée plate of vegetables can be prepared earlier in the day. Another bonus is that it gives parents a bit more time to prepare the main meal.

Vegetable soup is another great entrée as we head into the cooler months and can double as a great lunch the next day. Mix it up with pumpkin, tomato, carrot or potato and leek soup. Pureed soups work well with children as the texture of lumpy soups can be too much.

2. Vegetables throughout the day.

A tasting plate as a snack is a great way to offer some extra vegetables. Carrots, cucumber and mushroom are some great vegetables to offer alongside cheese, fruit and some wholegrain bread or pasta.

3. Get the children involved.

Asking your children what they would like for dinner is a bit like asking if they are ready to go to bed – the answer is probably not going to be what you want to hear. But if you sit down and share with them some of your favourite cookbooks and ask them to choose some new meals to try, then they are more likely to be accepting of new food. When choosing the meals, get the children to include the vegetables that will be with or in the meal. Another option is to take your children shopping and get them to choose a new vegetable that they would like to try. I know shopping with children can be like torture, so if you have multiple children, consider using this as an opportunity for one-on-one time.

4. Ask your children about vegetables.

The answers might surprise you! I asked my eight and five year old two questions –
Why are vegetables important?
What are your favourite vegetables?
I loved their answers and it was a great conversation starter about the importance of healthy eating.

5. Role modelling.

We know that parents who eat a healthy diet are more likely to have children who eat healthily. To add to this, research shows that women are more likely to eat more vegetables than men. This makes it even more important that we mums eat vegetables in front of and with our children. So next time you go to grab a snack, think about vegetables!

If you are looking for another reason to increase your family’s vegetable intake, then there are very good environmental reasons – especially if you can improve your storage and preparation of vegetables as there will likely be less wastage. That is a win for everyone.

Kate Bullen is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Mum to three young kids. For more advice from Kate visit

Water-soluble vitamins are delicate and can be easily lost during cooking. Eating raw is an option for many vegetables, but here are a few tips on how to keep the nutrients in your vegetables:
– Scrub vegetables wherever possible instead of peeling. Potatoes and baby carrots are good examples.
– Steam or microwave vegetables instead of boiling them.
– Try stir-frying vegetables.

Pumpkin soup

2 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Pepper to taste
700g pumpkin, peeled and diced
1 carrot, washed and diced
½ sweet potato, peeled & diced
500g chicken stock

Heat oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened but not coloured. Add spices and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Add pumpkin, carrot, sweet potato and stock and bring to the boil.
Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly then blend to smooth puree.

Christmas is time to enjoy family, friends, fun and food, but it doesn’t need to lead to unhealthy eating habits. Here are some helpful tips to help keep your family healthy and in shape this festive season.

What are your favourite memories of Christmas? Growing up, I always looked forward to Mum making her batches of rum balls (minus the rum!) and yo-yo biscuits. I also remember Mum buying a whole watermelon which was such a treat, and sitting outside munching on huge wedges of watermelon. I can almost taste the watermelon and remember the big black seeds– that is how strong the memory is! I also remember some of my favourite Christmas presents as a child being a skipping rope, a new bike or some beach toys.

Fast forward to today, and I am very conscious of creating similar memories for my three children with a mix of the healthy food, treats and Christmas presents to encourage healthy eating.

The Christmas and summer holiday period is always jam-packed with catch ups and social gatherings – and the common feature of all of these is food! Given the food is often ‘treat’ food, research shows that most adults gain about half a kilogram of extra body weight over the Christmas period. What can we do about this? Here are my tips to help keep Christmas fun and healthy – and you don’t have to miss out on your favourite treats!

Favourite summer icy-pole flavours:
– Mango and orange
– Watermelon and mint
– Raspberry & yoghurt
– Banana smoothie

1. Healthy treats

Summer fruit is one of my all-time favourite treats. Grapes, stone fruit, cherries, watermelon and rockmelon are all in season and scrumptious. Frozen grapes are delicious on a hot day, and watermelon granita or frozen berry sorbet is so refreshing and hydrating (my tip – halve the sugar in any recipe). Watermelon also cuts easily with cookie cutters – star shaped watermelon is very popular in my house!

Summer vegetables that I often include on snack plates are capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, tomatoes, snow peas and sweetcorn. They’re great for snacks and to take along as a plate to Christmas gatherings. Add some fresh fruit, cheese, boiled egg or cold meat along with a hummus or avocado dip and you instantly have a platter that could be a big snack or a meal.

From a scientific perspective, fruits and vegetables usually require us to chew the food – which is what takes extra time and allows us to feel full. So skip the juices and instead choose the whole food that takes longer to eat. This way our brain is reminded of when we feel full, where juice is very quick to drink and all too easy to drink more than we need. Remember that a glass of orange juice is usually the same as two-three oranges!

2. Water – lots of water!

Feeling hungry? First grab a glass of water. Research shows that too often we confuse thirst for hunger, which can mean that we eat more food than we need. If children say they are hungry, offer some water then a snack to help curb their appetite. I really have to encourage my children to drink water and find new straws, or ice blocks, or using an ‘adult’ glass are ways to encourage water being drunk.

3. Eat breakfast

Don’t skip it! A new study has shown that as children become teenagers they are more likely to skip breakfast and choose a less healthy breakfast. Parents influence what children eat at breakfast across all age groups. Avoid the sugary cereals – breakfast can be as simple as a banana, or a boiled egg with toast, or some oats with yoghurt and berries. Even on days that you know are going to be filled with food, starting the day with something small provides energy to keep us going during the day.

We head to the beach on Christmas morning straight after breakfast. It is some time to stretch the legs before the day becomes focused on eating and sitting down.

4. Smaller portion sizes

This is where you can still choose your favourite foods – just choose less of them. First up choose a smaller plate. Our brain is very visual – if you have a large plate you are likely to fill it up. So choose a smaller plate. Divide your plate into quarters – one half for vegetables and salad, one quarter for protein such as meat, fish, chicken, egg, nuts, and the remaining quarter for some carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, potato or similar.

Research shows that too often we confuse thirst for hunger, which can mean that we eat more food than we need.

5. Stay active

Add in extra activity to help with the extra eating. Seems simple – but adding in these types of activities are what children will remember as they grow up. And remember to make it fun! We head to the beach on Christmas morning straight after breakfast. It is some time to stretch the legs before the day becomes focused on eating and sitting down. And they get to try out any new beach toys that Santa might have left for them!

Most importantly have a safe, happy and healthy Christmas!



Kate Bullen is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Mum to three young kids. For more advice from Kate visit

Kate Bullen has identified 10 inexpensive and easily-accessible Superfoods that help keep you and your family healthy now and in the future.

Superfoods help keep you at your healthiest right now and are protective for your future health, proven to reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. I’ve selected some Superfoods that are:

  • Readily available and affordable.
  • High in nutrients including antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals.
  • Whole foods without processing, or only minimal processing to get it from farm to plate.

I have also thought about Superfoods in the life of a family and aimed to include foods that easily fit into a family’s diet. What you won’t see on my list of Superfoods is expensive and hard to find foods.

What is a Superfood?

I have included foods that are superior to their counterparts in terms of what nutrients they contain, so essentially you are getting a good bang for your buck, and these are foods that are available all year round.

Antioxidants in foods protect our body from free radical damage – much like a car is protected from rust by its special paint coating.

Antioxidants from wholefoods are a great way to protect your body. Antioxidants in foods protect our body from free radical damage – much like a car is protected from rust by its special paint coating. Antioxidants can help prevent diabetes and heart disease. I have included many foods on my list which are high in antioxidants.

Many Superfoods are rich in phytonutrients – which are what give vegetables their strong colours.

There are many, many phytonutrients that have been identified in food – some of the more common phytonutrients include carotenoids, polyphenols, flavonoids and isoflavonoids.

Phytonutrients and antioxidants may be emerging as a group of compounds found in foods that have the potential to reduce the risk of many lifestyle diseases. But, a word of caution, phytonutrients and antioxidants should be eaten as part of whole foods. Don’t go looking in the pharmacy aisle for a pill or supplement that contains phytonutrients or antioxidants because we just don’t know if it is the phytonutrients and antioxidants on their own, or the combination with fibre or even the vitamins and minerals that are found in these Superfoods, that provide their health benefits. So the best advice is to eat them as a whole food.

Garlic has been shown to have a protective effect against some types of cancer, and is a great way to add flavour to food without unnecessary fat.



1. Broccoli and Cauliflower

Broccoli and cauliflower are part of the cruciferous family of vegetables and take their name from the shape of their flowers. I have listed these vegetables first because I really do believe they are superior to other vegetables. This group of vegetables has been given a gold star time and time again as they consistently show up as having the potential to reduce our risk of cancer. That alone is a huge reason to be eating more of these vegetables! They are a great source of phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamin A, C & E and folate; they contain fibre to improve our bowel health; and they are a source of calcium. These vegetables can be eaten raw, lightly steamed or stir-fried.

2. Baby Spinach & Kale

Baby spinach is an excellent source of fibre, iron, vitamins A, C, E and folate – excellent for vegetarians, while Kale is a great source of vitamins A and C and a good source of calcium as it has the most calcium of any vegetable. Both baby spinach and kale are from the family of leafy green vegetables and are high in antioxidants and carotenoids – an important phytochemical to help reduce our risk of some cancers. These leafy green vegetables are great added to salads or are easily hidden in casseroles or pasta sauces. Or you can add a handful of baby spinach into a smoothie for some extra kick – we call them Superman Smoothies!

3. Almonds and Chia Seeds

Once upon a time, nuts and seeds were shunned upon because they are high in fat. But guess what? We know that the fat is mainly mono-unsaturated and it is good fat! Almonds are a fantastic source of fibre and vitamin E – which means they are high in antioxidants. You don’t need to have your almonds activated, but when choosing try for unroasted as the heating can destroy the thiamin in almonds. Add onto your breakfast, into a smoothie or enjoy in moderation as a snack.

Chia seeds are a bit newer to the market and are a great way to add some extra nutrients to meals or baking. Chia are packed full of fibre and antioxidants (it also contains omega-3 fats but unfortunately our body doesn’t convert the omega 3 from seeds as well as it does from other foods such as salmon). But don’t let that stop you – the healthy fat in nuts and seeds can help keep our heart healthy and our bowels regular – both very good things!

4. Oats and Quinoa

Don’t be afraid of carbohydrates and grainy foods! Choose grains that have very little processing, and include them as only one quarter of your meal – not half your plate. In winter, oats are a great way to start the day as porridge, or you can eat the oats raw with your favourite toppings – great as an afternoon snack. The main reason I have included these as a Superfood is because they are wholegrains, which are a fantastic source of antioxidants, phytonutrients, fibre and B group vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin and niacin.

We know that oats are a great source of beta-glucan which can help control cholesterol levels. Aim for half a cup as a serve of these foods to help control your overall energy intake. Add some fruit, yoghurt and you will have yourself a Supermeal. You could even go one step further and make an overnight oat and quinoa pudding for breakfast – yum!

5. Legumes and Lentils

Legumes and lentils are foods that are often overlooked in our western diet. There is growing evidence to show that legumes and lentils can be beneficial in reducing our risk of diabetes and heart disease. Legumes and lentils are readily available canned – just look for varieties without added salt – or you can have them dried or even frozen. Add some cannellini beans into your next casserole or soup (kids won’t even notice!), have some baked beans at breakfast, or try some edamame as a great snack or addition to a meal.

6. Carrots

Carrots are a staple vegetable that are versatile, cheap and available all year round. They’re a great snack – try serving some on your next dip or cheese platter for added nutrition and crunch. Beta-carotene is one of the main phytonutrients in carrot and is what makes them orange. They also have many other phytonutrients, antioxidants, along with fibre, potassium, and vitamins B6, C and K. Research has shown that diets rich in beta-carotene can be protective against many types of cancer. Delicious fresh, but also easily added to every cooked meal from stir-fry to soups.

7. Salmon

Salmon is well known for being a fantastic source of omega-3 fats which we know can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease. Include two salmon meals each week and you will be getting enough omega-3 fats to meet your dietary needs. As an added bonus, salmon is a great source of Vitamin A – giving it a gold star for containing antioxidants. Enjoy it fresh or canned, and you can of course have it raw, poached, steamed, baked or grilled. So many delicious options!

8. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene – which is the phytonutrient that gives tomatoes their colour. Diets high in lycopene have been shown to reduce the risk of prostate and some other cancers and heart disease. Tomatoes are also great sources of vitamin C and vitamin A. Tomatoes are readily available all year round and you can enjoy them fresh or canned.

9. Blueberries

The intense blue colour of blueberries proves their nutrient worth – they are packed full of flavonoids (a type of phytonutrient), antioxidants, vitamin C and fibre. Enjoy them fresh or for an easy, on-hand and more affordable option keep a pack in your freezer. They are delicious eaten frozen as a snack, or add them to some greek yoghurt, cereal, a smoothie or to use in baking.

10. Garlic

Garlic is a member of the onion family and a great source of phytonutrients. For a milder option choose garlic chives. You can enjoy garlic raw, in cooking or roasted. Garlic has been shown to have a protective effect against some types of cancer, and is a great way to add flavour to food without unnecessary fat.

I would encourage you to trying including more of these Superfoods on your plate and maybe even as a swap for other less-super foods. For this your health will thank you!

Kate Bullen is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Mum to three young kids. For more advice from Kate visit

Fun Facts

  • Carrots really do help us to see better! The beta carotene in carrots is converted by our body to Vitamin A which helps with vision.
  • Tomatoes are really a fruit not a vegetable because they have seeds in the middle, but we usually eat them as a vegetable.
  • Wherever possible leave the skin on fruits and vegetables as many of the vitamins are in the skin.