The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend eating a variety of vegetables everyday. Vegetables should make up a large part of your daily food intake and they’re encouraged at every meal – and snacks too!
Research shows that only 8.6% per cent of four to eight year olds in Australia eat the recommended serves of vegetables each day (1). As kids get older, this number decreases with 4.6% of nine to thirteen year olds meeting their requirements. The most commonly consumed vegetable are potatoes.
Why are vegetables important?
Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and many phytonutrients (nutrients naturally present in plants) that help your body stay healthy. Since vegetables are low in kilojoules (energy) relative to many other foods, including them every day can help prevent excessive weight gain. They may also help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke and some types of cancers (2). Different vegetables and fruit can help protect the body in different ways, so choose a variety of colours everyday, such as:
• green (broccoli, spinach, peas)
• orange (carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes)
• yellow and red (capsicum, tomatoes, corn).
• purple (beetroot and purple cabbage)
How many veggies do children need each day?
|2-3 years||4-8 years||9-11 years||12-18 years|
|Boys||2 ½||4 ½||5||5 ½|
|Girls||2 ½||4 ½||5||5|
Note: the number of serves varies according to activity levels, age and health status.
A serve of vegetables is equivalent to:
- ½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables; cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils; sweetcorn
- 1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables
- ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables
- 1 medium tomato
What to look for
Remember that you don’t always have to rely on fresh veg – frozen, canned or dried varieties are all suitable too. When it comes to choosing canned or dried veggies, check the ingredients list and choose those with reduced or no added salt, no added fat or sugar, and that is canned in natural juices, not syrup.
The intake of some salted, dried, fermented or pickled vegetables has been associated with an increased risk of some cancers (2),so it is recommended to limit these foods as much as possible . Also limit fried vegetables such as potato and vegetable chips and crisps as they add unnecessary kilojoules (energy) and added salt to your diet. Chips and crisps do not fall into the vegetable food group but are classed as “occasional” or “extra” foods.
1 – 2011-12 Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Food & Nutrients
2 – NHMRC – Australian Dietary Guidelines Summary