Food Diversity

Food is a part of our everyday lives. It is important for our nourishment, our enjoyment and connection with others.

The amount and kinds of foods we eat are needed for good health and wellbeing of our body, mind and soul. Research tells us that if we do not eat the right food, we can become unhealthy, unhappy and unwell.

When part of our job is to cook and serve food to others, we need to respond to the needs and wants of the other person. Our own food choices and cultural practices about food can influence our work and it is important to be aware of our own preferences.

In this lesson we will look at:

  • The different words we use for cooking and serving utensils
  • How to match serving utensils to the food
  • How to serve a balanced meal
  • Imagining the plate as a clock
  • The diversity of food in Australia

Good food is the basis of true happiness.

– Auguste Escoffier

Standards Mapping

Click the coloured headings below to view how the content in this lesson correlates with the Aged Care and National Disability Service Standards:

Aged Care Standards

  • The older person’s identity is maintained with dignity and respect
  • The older person is supported in informed decision making
  • Workers recognise and respect a consumer’s individuality in all aspects of care and services.
  • Worker understanding of cultural and food diversity enables them to meet the needs and expectations and uphold the rights of the older person
  • Worker recognises, respects and supports the unique cultural identity of the older person
  • Older person’s dietary needs met for their health, wellbeing and safety as per the care plan
  • Each consumer gets safe and effective services and supports for daily living that meet the consumer’s needs and preferences
  • Where meals are provided, they are varied and of suitable quality and quantity
  • Equipment is safe, clean, well maintained and suitable for the consumer
  • The workforce is recruited, trained, equipped and supported to deliver the outcomes required by these standards

Disability Service Standards

  • The service supports active decision-making and individual choice
  • Consumers have the right to make informed decisions and be free from discrimination or harm
  • Staff understand, respect and facilitate individual interests and preferences
  • The service works together with an individual to identify their needs
  • Service planning and delivery is responsive to diversity including disability, culture, heritage, faith, and other relevant factors
  • The service uses person-centred approaches including the active involvement of people with disability, families, friends, carers and advocates to review policies, practices, procedures and service provision

Scroll down to begin!

Food Terminology

It is important that we can communicate well with each other about food. We can do this in part by making sure we use the same word to name an item. The names for kitchen utensils and food can be different across cultures – they can even be different across the same country!

Use the flash cards below to see if your terminology matches ours.

We need to make sure that we understand what is being asked of us. If someone asks for a glass of water and we give them a mug or a bowl it may seem strange. If you aren’t sure what someone prefers or what they mean, just ask!

Now that we understand some of the words used, let’s take a look at what we might serve with those utensils.

Serving Food

The way we serve food at home is different to the way that we serve food when we are at work. When we eat at home, food is fuel. We know what is in a meal and presentation may not matter as much.

When we are serving food at work, we need to follow food safety, and make sure we are putting the right amount of food on the plate and presenting it in a way that looks appealing to the person eating it.

First, let’s think about how we get the food from the cooking pot to the plate. Choosing the right utensils makes sure that we are being safe, meeting the portion size and that we aren’t making a mess!

Hover over or click on the cards below to reveal some general rules.


Use these to pick up large pieces of meat, bread and solid food that might slide off a spoon too easily like long pasta.​

Serving Spoons

Use these to scoop up mixed vegetables, rice and short pasta. Anything that is too small to use tongs with.


Use this to spoon liquid like gravy, soups or stews that are too thin for a serving spoon.


Use this to roll ice cream or mashed potatoes into balls.

Now you have an idea of what you might use each item for, use the slides below to name which food should be served with which utensils.

Putting the right amount of food on a plate is important too. Not enough food and a person may walk away hungry. Too much food and they may feel overwhelmed. People may feel that they need to finish what is on their plate and may not start if they think they cannot finish.

A serve of food is an amount that is considered appropriate for one person in one sitting. We need to consider how filling the food is as well as how much we serve. For example, a bowl of lettuce will not fill up our stomach like a bowl of rice would.

Look at the cards below and see if you can work out which plates have a single serving of food on them. Some will have more, and some will have less.

Below is a simple table we can use to make sure we are giving just the right amount of food. If you choose an item from each of the columns below this will make one serve.


  • 1 ladle of soup
  • 1 ladle or 2 serving spoons of casserole or stew
  • 2 slices of thinly cut roast meat
  • 2 rissoles
  • 1 piece of steak
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 piece of fish
  • 1 scoop of mashed potatoes
  • 1 serving spoon of pasta or rice
  • 2 serving spoons of mixed vegetables
  • 2 tongs of salad (not just lettuce!)
  • 1 ladle of gravy
  • 1 serving spoon or more of sauce

Food is different from day to day and this table can only serve as a guide. Remember, a person can always ask for more after they have finished! Sometimes we call this having ‘seconds’ because it is the second time we have eaten that meal.

Use the knowledge you have learned here to serve up the meal below.

Now we know how much to serve, it’s time to look at how we put it on the plate to make it appealing.

Plating Meals

Regardless of whether we are eating breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, we all want our food to look good! Eating is an experience for every sense we have – not just taste. A meal could be prepared by the greatest chef in the world but if it looks bad on the plate, we may not want to eat it.

When we serve food at work, we also need to remember the needs of the people who will be eating the meal. A person with low vision will appreciate bright colours that are separated from each other on the plate. 

Look at the examples below of a poorly plated meal versus a well plated meal. This is what a person with low vision may see. This model is also useful when people are trying new foods so that they can sample elements of the plate without mixing flavours.

This poorly plated example has food piled on top of each other and mixed together. Some people may avoid eating this because they are afraid of accidentally eating something they don’t like. Or, they might stop eating if they taste something they don’t like because they cannot see there are other elements.

This well plated example has food in distinct piles. This way the person can choose to taste each one, eating the ones they like and leaving any others.

To make sure that food is served in a way that is appetising and easily seen, we can imagine the plate as a clock. Placing the food in the following positions:

  • The protein or meat between 9 and 3
  • The starch, rice or pasta between the 9 and 12
  • The vegetables or salad between 12 and 3
  • Gravy over the meat
This keeps the food separate and makes sure the person can see all elements on the plate. Food is not covered with sauce or hidden by other food.

Have a go with plating up a meal with the activity below.


you eat first with your eyes and then through your mouth.

– Unknown

Diversity of Food

There is no right or wrong when it comes to culture or food, simply different. Our culture and the food we eat is dependent on the history of our people.

Watch this short video for a brief history of food in Australia.

What we cook and the way we serve it will probably be different to how we cook and serve food at work. There are lots of reasons why! Hover over or click on the pictures below for just some of the reasons:

The food we ate growing up
The places we have travelled and experiences we have had
Allergies and illnesses
The people we spend time with and places we eat
Our taste preferences
Availability and cost of ingredients

We are blessed in Australia to have such a diverse range of cultures living in one place. Not only do we get to sample different foods but they become a part of our everyday life. Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, among others, are commonplace in Australia.

The below video was taken at an Australian Food Festival where people from different cultures share the foods they love from their countries.


– Stephen R. Covey

Put it into practice...

Over the next week we want you to think about the food that you eat at home. Ask yourself:

  • How is it different to what you cook and serve at work?
  • How is it the same?
  • Why do you think these differences and similarities exist?

Try to complete this activity at least three times before the first face-to-face workshop. This will give you plenty to talk about at the workshop. You can take photos, videos or make some notes to share.

Further Resources

The content below are resources that you can access if you are interested in getting more information. Click the topic you are interested in for links to videos, articles and activities.