Discretionary foods

Findings from the National Health Survey show more than a third (35%) of Australians’ energy intake comes from discretionary foods.1 Discretionary foods are commonly called ‘junk foods’ – foods that do not fall into one of the five food groups. They tend to be high in saturated fat, sugar, salt or alcohol and low in fibre or essential nutrients. Examples of these foods include cakes, sweet biscuits, pies, ice cream, pastries and desserts, processed meats, potato chips and sugar sweetened beverages such as soft drink, sports drinks and sweetened fruit juice.

Discretionary choices can be enjoyed occasionally as part of a balanced diet, but only in small amounts. It is recommended that intake of these foods be limited to one serve per day (approximately 600kJ); this equates to two scoops of ice cream, two slices of salami, two or three sweet biscuits, 200mL of wine or half a small bar of chocolate.2

Rather than discretionary choices, consume additional foods from the five foods groups such as raw fruit or vegetable sticks, yoghurt, cheese, a milkshake, wholegrain bread or cereals. Use these healthy and delicious recipes and meal planners with foods from the five food groups.


1 Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics [Internet]. Canberra: ABS; 2015. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12. Discretionary foods. Cat 4364.0.55.007 [updated 2015 Oct 15; cited 2016 Feb 12]. Available: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/4364.0.55.007~2011-12~Main%20Features~Discretionary%20foods~700

2 National Health and Medical Research Council. Discretionary food and drink choices [Internet]. Canberra, Commonwealth of Australia, 2015. Available: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/food-essentials/discretionary-food-and-drink-choices