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5 foods a dietitian always add to their basket and 5 they don't

Making healthy choices for your family can be overwhelming, as you navigate the huge range of products that are vying for trolley space. We asked our nutrition team to share the products that always make the list, and ones that can be missed.    


Extra Virgin Olive oil

A hero of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil should top any shopping list. With healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and high amounts of polyphenols (powerful plant compounds), extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has been shown to

improve longevity when consumed as part of a healthy diet.

Suitable for almost any type of cooking or baking, whether it be drizzled through a salad, keeping your baking creations delicious and moist, or even a staple in your beauty regime, EVOO should be your first oil of choice.

There’s a misconception that olive oil isn’t suitable for cooking, but it’s an excellent oil for cooking due to its high smoke point (190-220°C) and high level of protective antioxidants.

Soy milk

The benefits of soy are plentiful – think high quality protein, high in fibre and protective phytoestrogens (naturally ocurring plant food substances with protective health benefits). And one of the easiest ways to regularly include soy in your diet is with soy milk.

Soy milk delivers important isoflavones and a calcium-enriched variety will provide as much calcium as regular dairy milk, minus the dietary cholesterol, animal fat and lactose. It is also often fortified with vitamin D, boosting its already healthy nutrition profile, but check the label to be sure.

Soy milk can generally be used as a substitute wherever you would normally use dairy milk, and it’s lactose-free, gluten-free, low-FODMAP and nut-free. Better yet it can be enjoyed by the whole family. From the age of 12 months,

children can drink full fat soy milk as a complete replacement for dairy or a mix of both.


Definitely an unsung hero of traditional cuisines and loved by dietitians. Known as the #1 food for longevity, they are an important part of each of the Blue Zone cuisines, those communities known to live well into their 9th and 10th decades. Legumes are defined as any plant that grows in pods. This includes soybeans, peanuts, fresh peas and beans, and pulses such as dried beans (chickpeas, black beans, etc), dried peas, lentils and lupins.   

Legumes are rich sources of quality plant protein, low GI carbs and prebiotic fibre. They also contain minerals such as zinc and iron and disease fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients. They are also gluten free.
Apart from their remarkable nutritional profile, they are also inexpensive, versatile and environmentally beneficial. It is far more economical to produce plant proteins than animal proteins. And farmers have relied on legumes for centuries to help fertilise the soil (fix nitrogen) by rotating legume crops with other grain crops. 

You’ll find a large variety of dried and canned legumes/beans available in the supermarket. There are also frozen peas, beans, soybeans (edamame), broad beans, etc., quick and easy to eat as a vegetable with your dinner. And it’s easy to just open a can, rinse and drain then add the beans to salads, soups. And my favourite, baked beans on toast, a quick nutritious meal.

Frozen veggies (and fruits)

While cooking with fresh, seasonal fruit and veggies is best, also keep frozen veggies and fruits on hand as they are a fabulous backup option. They’re generally cheaper than their fresh counterparts, convenient and packed with goodness – because they’re frozen while still fresh, they don’t get the chance to lose nutrients and will help you

Buying frozen also means there’s likely to be less wastage, as they can be stored in the freezer and used when convenient – so there’s no waste and no huge hurry to find a use for it before it goes off.

Nuts / nut butter

There are so many reasons to enjoy a handful of nuts every day – they’re good for your weight, good for your heart, and help ward off chronic diseases.

Nuts are quite literally nutrition powerhouses. Just one handful (30 grams) can go a long way to helping you reach nutrition targets due to how much protein, iron, zinc, calcium, fibre and omega-3 fats they contain.

A great way to up your nut intake is with a good quality nut butter. Choose nut butters that have no, or are low in added salt and sugar. There’s a huge range now available in all supermarkets, from peanut to cashew and nut butters that also mix in seeds. Add them to smoothies, top your porridge or pimp your cookies.


Coconut oil

Coconut oil has been hailed as a wonder product over the past decade, however, there are a few things to be wary of when it comes to this popular household staple.

There are a lot of health claims surrounding coconut oil with little science backing behind them. Coconut oil’s health benefits are attributed to its Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), but the fact is coconut oil is only 3-4% MCTs.

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Coconut oil is also particularly high in lauric acid, a type of saturated fatty acid (the building blocks of fats). While this mimics healthy unsaturated fats by boosting HDL (good) cholesterol, studies show it also causes total cholesterol and unhealthy LDL cholesterol levels to rise. If you compare coconut oil to other healthy oils such as olive oil, nut oils and avocado oil, coconut oil just doesn’t stack up.


No surprise here, lollies are best left for special occasions. Just 100 grams of jelly babies (about a handful) has more than 1,400 kilojoules and more than 50 grams of sugar – about ten teaspoons! Lollies are also not great for your pearly whites. The sugars found in these highly processed foods are major risk factors for both the start and progress of dental disease. For a healthier and teeth-friendly alternative, try popping some grapes in the freezer for a sweet and fruity treat.

Frozen pastries

As a nation, we love our pies – Aussies consume an average of 12 meat pies a year, that’s 270 million pies! They might be convenient, but frozen pastries such as pies and sausage rolls tend to be high fat and salt content and lack nutrients. Instead, why not try making your own.

Instant powdered soups

A quick warming fix, instant soups are often perceived to be a lot healthier than they are. They are usually laden with salt, and contain very little of the good stuff usually found in hearty, healthy soups, like veggies and legumes/ lentils.

As with frozen pastries, they also don’t offer much in return as processing removes most nutrients. Soups are easy to make though from scratch, so batch cook and freeze for your own homemade soup in an instant. Try roast tomato or creamy pumpkin.


You know once they are home in your pantry, they’re a temptation that’s hard to ignore. So, it’s best to leave them at the supermarket.

Two cream-filled biscuits contain around 860 kilojoules, which you’d need to push your shopping trolley for about an hour to burn off. Instead, stick to fresh fruit or try this healthy twist on cookie dough bites.