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What you should eat at every age

A family sit around a dinner table eating and laughing.
As you get older, your food needs change.

You’ve heard about having 5 serves of veggies and 2 fruits a day, but did you know that the recommended number of daily serves for each food group actually changes as you progress through adulthood?

Depending on your age and gender, you’ll need more of some foods and less of others as you grow older. If it’s been a while since you checked in with the guidelines for what you should be eating or drinking, scroll down to your age group to get familiar with your recommended serves.

People who are taller or are very active may need to choose extra serves from the five food groups to meet additional energy requirements – these are shown in the last column of the below tables. No two bodies are exactly the same, so these guidelines provide only an indication of what a well-balanced diet looks like for an average day at that age.

Ages 19-50: Recommended daily number of serves for each food group

 Vegetables and  legumes/beansFruitGrain foodsLean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes/beansMilk, yoghurt, cheese and/or dairy alternativesAdditional serves (for taller or more active people)
Men62630-3
Women5260-2½

As an adult, your dietary needs stay fairly stable for a number of decades.

Men might be surprised to see that their recommended serves of vegetables and legumes is 6, rather than 5. If you’re not eating enough veggies, try incorporating some into meals that don’t always include vegetables, like breakfast. Recipes like a Brekkie Wrap with Egg and Spinach or Moroccan Baked Eggs can be found on the Healthier. Happier. website.

Age 51-70: Recommended daily number of serves for each food group

 Vegetables and legumes/beansFruitGrain foodsLean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes/beansMilk, yoghurt, cheese and/or dairy alternativesAdditional serves (for taller or more active people)
Men260-2½
Women524240-2½

When you reach your 50’s, you generally don’t need to eat quite as much food. Men’s recommended serves of vegetables and meat or other protein foods are a little bit less, while women’s recommended serves of grain foods drop from 6 to 4.

In these decades, women need to up their intake of dairy or dairy-alternative foods, to ensure they’re getting enough calcium. If you’re not sure you’re getting enough calcium in your food and drink, talk to your GP or a dietitian.

Age 70+: Recommended daily number of serves for each food group

 Vegetables and legumes/beansFruitGrain foodsLean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes/beansMilk, yoghurt, cheese and/or dairy alternativesAdditional serves (for taller or more active people)
Men520-2½
Women523240-2

In your mature decades, the recommended number of serves for grain foods drops for both genders so you won’t need to eat as much.

Remember that dietary needs depend on how active you are, so if you’re still moving about a lot, then you might need to eat an additional couple of serves from one of the food groups to give you enough energy.

An older couple run happily down a beach.

Other life stages

Your food and drink needs can change at certain times of your life. For example, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you may need to alter the number of serves of the different food groups you are consuming. You can find more information on the Eat for Health website if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and should talk to your GP or an Accredited Practising Dietitian if you have any questions about what and how much you should be eating or drinking.

What’s a serve?

All the above information is great, but if you don’t know what a serve of each food group actually is, you might get a bit stuck when it comes to applying it. Below are some examples of what a serve is for each food group.

Vegetables and legumes/beans

One serve of this food group is about 75grams of food. This is roughly equivalent to:

  • ½ cup of cooked green or orange vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin
  • ½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils
  • 1 cup of leafy salad vegetables
  • ½ cup corn
  • ½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables like sweet potato or taro
  • 1 medium tomato

Fruit

One serve of this food group is about 150grams of food. This is roughly equivalent to:

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
  • 1 cup of diced or canned fruit

Grain

One serve of this food group is equivalent to:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • ½ medium bread roll or flat bread
  • ½ cup of cooked rice, pasta, noodles, barley, buckwheat, semolina, polenta, bulgur or quinoa
  • ½ cup cooked porridge
  • 2/3 cup wheat flake cereal
  • ¼ cup muesli
  • 3 crispbreads
  • 1 crumpet
  • 1 small English muffin or scone

Lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes/beans

One serve of this food group is equivalent to:

  • 65grams cooked lean red meat
  • 80grams cooked lean poultry
  • 100grams cooked fish fillet or one small can of fish
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cooked or canned legumes or beans
  • 170grams tofu
  • 30grams nuts, seeds, peanut or almond butter, tahini

Dairy and dairy alternatives

One serve of this food group is equivalent to:

  • 1 cup (250ml) fresh, UHT long life, reconstituted powdered milk or buttermilk
  • ½ cup (120ml) evaporated milk
  • 2 slices or 4 x 3 x 2cm cube of hard cheese, such as cheddar
  • ½ cup ricotta cheese
  • ¾ cup yoghurt
  • 1 cup soy, rice or other cereal drink with at least 100mg of added calcium per 100ml

A table with plates of fish, vegetables and breads.

Recommended Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents

Are you a parent or carer of children or teens? You can find information about the recommended average daily serves they should eat here.

More information

You can find more information about healthy eating at the links below.

Eat for Health

Healthier. Happier.

Get Healthy

Last updated: 2 January 2019