Healthy Eating

Vegetables and fruits

Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits is likely to reduce the risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, stomach and bowel.


Eat plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruits. Adults should eat at least five serves of vegetables and two serves of fruit each day. The number of serves recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding is higher, and the recommendations for children are slightly lower. Eat a variety of vegetables and fruit. It doesn’t matter if the source is fresh, tinned, frozen or dried – it all counts.

What is a serve?

A serve size is about the same as an adult’s handful. So, adults should eat five handfuls of vegetables and two handfuls of fruit every day.

Wholegrain breads and cereals

Dietry fibre can help lower the risk of bowel cancer. Wholegrain and wholemeal breads and cereals are high in dietry fibre (as are fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and legumes).


Eat breads and cereals, preferably wholegrain, as part of an overall healthy diet. Adults should eat at least four serves of breads and cereals a day.

What is a serve?

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta or noodles
  • 2/3 cup of wholegrain breakfast cereal
  • 1/4 cup of untoasted muesli
  • 1/2 cup of cooked porridge

Meat and meat alternatives

Research suggests that eating red meat and, in particular, processed meat, may increase the risk of bowel cancer.


Cancer Council ACT recognises that red meat is important for supplying iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and protein in the Australian diet. However, because of a possible link with bowel cancer, no more than three to four serves a week of red meat is recommended. On other days try fish, chicken and other alternatives. Limit processed meats, such as sausages, frankfurts, bacon and ham.

What is a serve?

  • 65–100 grams of cooked meat or chicken (for example, 1/2 cup of mince, or 2 small chops, or 2  slices roast meat)
  • 80–120 grams of fish
  • 2 small eggs
  • 1/3 cup nuts
  • 1/3 cup cooked lentils, chick peas, split peas, dried or canned beans

Dairy foods

In terms of cancer risk, dairy foods and calcium have shown both protective and harmful effects. Overall the proven health benefits of dairy foods outweigh the unproven harms.


Dairy foods should be encouraged as part of a varied and nutritious diet as they are essential to maintain good bone and dental health. Cancer Council supports the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which encourage people to eat at least three serves of dairy foods (milk, cheese and yoghurt) each day.

What is a a serve?

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 200g yogurt
  • 40g hard cheese


According to current evidence there is no direct link between fat intake and cancer. However, a high-fat diet may cause excess body weight, which is a risk factor for several cancers including cancers of the bowel, kidney, pancreas, oesophagus and endometrium, as well as breast cancer (after menopause). Obesity also increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes.


As part of an overall healthy diet, limit saturated fats and moderate total fat intake. Saturated fats are found mostly in meat and dairy products, but are also found in cakes, biscuits, snack foods and take-away foods. ‘Good fats’ (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) can be found in margarines, nuts, avocados and seeds.


An increased risk of stomach cancer has been linked with high-salt diets in countries where salting of foods is a common preserving method.

Too much salt can also lead to high blood pressure.


Choose foods low in salt. Flavour foods with herbs, lemon juice and spices instead of salt. Try to limit salty snacks, packaged and take-away foods, processed meats, cheese and butter.

A low salt food has less than 120mg of sodium per 100 grams.


There is no evidence that alcoholic drinks provide any protection against cancer. Alcohol is, in fact, an important risk factor for some cancers, particularly breast and bowel cancer, as well as cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus and liver.


Cancer Council ACT recommends that, to reduce the risk of cancer, alcohol consumption should be limited or avoided. For people who do drink alcohol, the recommended amount is an average of no more than two standard drinks a day.

What is a standard drink?

  • 375 ml bottle or can of mid-strength beer (3.5% alcohol volume)
  • 100 ml of wine (one small glass of wine)
  • 30 ml of spirits (one measure of spirits)

These are approximate numbers only. Always read the container for the exact number of standard drinks.

Sugar sweetened beverages

Drinking sugar sweetened beverages is associated with increased energy intake and in turn, weight gain and obesity. It is well established that obesity is a leading risk factor for some cancers. 

The term sugar sweetened beverages includes sugar sweetened soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks and cordial.


Adults and children should limit sugar sweetened beverages and instead drink water, or unflavoured reduced fat milk. Other healthier alternatives include soda water, tea and coffee.

Further Information and Resources.

For further information and advice visit our website at or contact Cancer Council 13 11 20.

This information can be photocopied for distribution.

Last updated June 2016.

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Cancer Council ACT



(02) 6257 5055



Unit 1 (The Annex)
173 Strickland Crescent
Deakin ACT 2600