Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Obesity and diet

Most  people will need to reduce their daily kilojoule intake in order to lose weight. This means eating and drinking less and making healthier food choices. One way to do this is to swap unhealthy and high energy food choices such as fast food, processed food and sugary drinks (including alcohol) for healthier choices.

Australians are recommended to:

  • enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from these five groups every day:
    • vegetables, including different types and colours, and legumes/beans
    • fruit
    • grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties, such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley
    • lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans (the latter in two food groups as they are rich in protein and carbohydrates)
    • milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat (reduced fat milks are not suitable for children under 2 years)
  • drink plenty of water
  • limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.

Some restaurants, cafes and fast-food outlets provide kilojoule information per portion, but providing this information is not compulsory. Be careful - some foods can quickly take you over the limit, such as burgers and fried chicken.

Avoid fad diets

Avoid fad diets that recommend unsafe practices such as fasting (going without food for long periods of time) or cutting out entire food groups such as meat, fish, wheat or dairy products.

These are not sustainable, can make you feel ill, and may cause unpleasant side effects such as bad breath, diarrhoea and headaches.

This is not to say that all commercial diet programmes are unsafe. Many are based on sound medical and scientific principles and can work well in some people.

Choose a responsible diet programme that:

  • educates you about issues such as portion size, making changes to long-term behaviour and healthy eating
  • is not overly restrictive in terms of the type of food you can eat
  • is based on achieving gradual sustainable weight loss rather short-term rapid weight loss, which is unlikely to last.

Very low calorie diet

A very low calorie diet (VLCD) is a diet that involves consuming less than containing less than 3350 kilojoules (800 calories) per day.

While a VLCD can be an effective method of losing weight for some obese people, is it not a suitable or safe method for everyone. It would usually only be recommended if rapid weight loss was required to reduce the risk of an obesity-related complication such as heart disease, or if you have failed to lose weight despite conventional treatment. You should only ever undertake a VLCD under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.

For more information about healthy diet recommendations for Australians read more about balanced eating, healthy food swaps and see  Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Last reviewed: August 2016

Recommended links

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 34 results

How can I prevent my child from becoming overweight? Dietitians Association of Australia

How can I prevent my child from becoming overweight? Right from the start, encourage your whole family to adopt a healthy lifestyle by: Eating a healthy, balanced diet Being physically active

Read more on Dietitians Association of Australia website

Promoting Healthy Weight

Promoting healthy weight focuses on the prevention and management of overweight and obesity. In Australia, the 2007-08 National Health Survey showed that some 61% of the adult population (18 years and over) were overweight or obese, with 25% of these classified as obese.

Read more on Department of Health website

Obesity - How do I know if my child has a weight problem | The Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Diet impacts male fertility and sperm health

What a man eats influences his fertility. Eating all the right foods can increase fertility for men trying to conceive, whereas an unhealthy diet contributes to infertility. Fruits, vegetables and other antioxidant rich foods are a key part of any fertility diet. Being overweight, obese and related conditions like type 2 diabetes mellitus and erectile dysfunction also negatively influence male fertility.

Read more on Parenthub website

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight - myDr.com.au

Even losing 5-10 per cent of your bodyweight if you are overweight or obese can have a beneficial effect. Find out how to lose weight and keep it off.

Read more on myDr website

Nutrition for adults with Spinal Cord Injuries

After a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), quadriplegia in particular, the energy requirements of the body decline and the metabolism becomes sluggish due to insulin resistance. It is very easy to gain weight if eating habits do not change. Being overweight and having a SCI impact s on many important factors such as, skin integrity, equipment (eg. wheelchair, hoist), bladder & bowel management, mobility, transferring, dressing and independence. People with SCI have a greater tendency to heart disease and diabetes. Being overweight and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol increases the risks further.

Read more on ACI - Agency for Clinical Innovation website

Healthy Kids : Facts about Fats

A certain amount of fat is an essential part of a healthy balanced diet. Facts about fats outlines the main types of fats found in the foods that we eat, and which are considered healthier for us. Compiled by the National Heart Foundation of Australia.

Read more on Healthy Kids website

Nutrition and physical activity - Position statement - Cancer Council Australia

We know that overweight and obesity, physical inactivity, poor diet and drinking alcohol all contribute to cancer risk.

Read more on Cancer Council Australia website

2 weeks pregnant: Fertility for men - Mens health and how to improve male fertility

A healthy pregnancy takes two. Men need to prepare their bodies and ensure their sperm are healthy at the time of conception. Many lifestyle measures, including eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising and avoiding drugs and alcohol, can improve a mans health and male fertility. In many cases these measures not only increase the chances of conception they also ensure the pregnancy gets off to the healthiest start possible.

Read more on Parenthub website

Fertility and a mans weight

Read more on Your Fertility website

Check your symptoms Find a health service

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo
Feedback