I tried Health Slice for the first time in the 1980s. I was visiting a friend at the time and she served this delicious freshly-baked moist and chewy fruit slice for morning tea. When I asked about the recipe, she listed its ingredients and explained how quick and easy it is to make. To my surprise I learnt that the slice is made without butter, margarine or oil. My friend was happy to share her recipe with me. Since then, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve baked this classic 1980s Health Slice.

Health Slice, a delicious moist and chewy low-fat fruit slice.
  • Save
Health Slice, a delicious moist and chewy low-fat fruit slice. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.

You’ll find my recipe for Health Slice, and accompanying photo gallery, towards the end of this post. The post concludes with a number of titbits about healthy eating and so-called health food, which I hope you’ll find both informative and surprising.

First, here’s a little background about my recipe collection.

I have been collecting (and sharing) recipes for years.

During the 1980s I was a busy wife and mother of two young school-age children. Family life was full and hectic and time was of the essence. However, I liked to cook, so I was always on the lookout for quick and easy recipes for family meals and baked goodies (cakes, biscuits, slices and pastries). The recipe for Health Slice is a good example. I added it to my collection of tried-and-tested recipes. I began to stock-pile recipes soon after I was married, in the 1970s. By the 1980s, I had accumulated lots of wonderful recipes.

Around this time (1980s), I began to share the recipes in my collection with like-minded folk. I compiled my favourite tried-and-tested recipes into little books which I gave to family and friends as Christmas gifts. I did this on several occasions over a 20-year period. Actually, 3 years ago, a couple of friends let me know via Facebook that they still had the booklets I gave them in the 1980s! One friend wrote that she has two of these booklets and still uses the recipes today. Isn’t that amazing?

Today I share recipes here, on my blog.

Since 2015 when I set up this personal (non-commercial) website, I’ve been posting recipes on my blog. In this way, I can share recipes I’ve collected with many more people, which gives me much delight. Along with each recipe, I tell a little of the story associated with the food it represents. All food has a story and a specific context. To date, I’ve published 28 stories and recipes in the FOOD category on my website and blog! I’ve written all but one of these.

The exception is Grandma’s Easy Lemon Meringue Pie (June 14, 2017), which my daughter Ruth wrote. In it Ruth shares her grandmother’s easy-to-make recipe for an old favourite dessert but, more importantly, she writes about the loving relationship she had with her grandmother. It’s a beautiful story, and I commend it to you.

Ruth with her grandmother and her husband on the occasion of her grandmother's 90th birthday. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2006.
  • Save
Ruth with her grandmother and her husband on the occasion of her grandmother’s 90th birthday. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2006.


Ruth has often said to me that I should share my Health Slice recipe on my blog. I know she bakes Health Slice for her family, just as I used to do for mine. The recipe has certainly stood the test of time! Here are the reasons why.

Health Slice is quick and easy to make.

Health Slice is just like Bung-in Cake (April 14, 2016). All you have to do is put all the ingredients together in a bowl and mix. There’s a little cutting up to do beforehand, but that doesn’t take long. Altogether, Health Slice takes about 10 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to bake. That’s quick. Finally, it’s so simple, even a child (or a husband like mine who doesn’t like to cook) can make this slice. No special cooking skills are required.

Even the most inexperienced cook can make Health Slice successfully - it's that easy. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.
  • Save
Even the most inexperienced cook can make Health Slice successfully – it’s that easy. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.

As its name suggests, Health Slice is a “healthy” option.

Health Slice contains wholemeal (wholegrain) flour, rolled oats, desiccated coconut, dates, sultanas, nuts, milk, rum and brown sugar. Apart from the rum (used as a flavouring) and brown sugar, all of the ingredients are examples of foods considered today to be necessary in a balanced diet.

Health Slice ingredients. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.
  • Save
Health Slice ingredients. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.

According to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, there are five food groups, covering all the foods we need for adequate nutrition. They are:

  • Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
  • Vegetables and legumes/beans
  • Fruit
  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives, mostly reduced fat
  • Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds and legumes/beans.

Along with foods from each of these five groups, we are advised to drink plenty of water and limit our intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.

If you’ve grown up or lived in Australia during the last four decades, you should be familiar with the Healthy Eating Pyramid. Since 1980 it’s been widely used in Australia as an educational tool.

The pyramid is a simple, conceptual model that encourages us to eat a varied and balanced diet based on the five food groups. The pyramid’s two foundation layers include the three plant-based food groups (vegetables and legumes, fruits, grains). These layers make up the largest portion of the pyramid. In fact, foods in these two layers should make up the largest portion of our diet, around 70% of what we eat. The middle layer includes the other two food groups. Finally, healthy fats (like olive oil) sit at the top of the pyramid.

Based on the Healthy Eating Pyramid, Health Slice gets a big tick.

The recipe has a high proportion of foundation level ingredients (wholegrain flour, rolled oats, coconut, dates and sultanas) and a smaller proportion of middle level ingredients (milk and nuts). Note that rolled oats is one ingredient of Health Slice. I’ve written previously about the benefits of rolled oats, a so-called “super food”, in Make your family a treat: Bircher Muesli (July 10, 2017).

Traditional rolled oats (left) compared with quick oats (right). You can use either in this recipe. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.
  • Save
Traditional rolled oats (left) compared with quick oats (right). You can use either in this recipe. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.

Note also that Health Slice does not include butter, margarine or oil. Instead of fat or oil, the recipe uses milk (preferably low-fat milk). In this, it’s definitely a recipe of the 1980s.

As pointed out on the Australian Food Timeline, low-fat foods became a priority in the 1980s. The trend towards choosing low-fat foods started in the 1970s. In fact, the recipe book “Polyunsaturated Cookery”, published in 1974, was recommended by the National Heart Foundation of Australia (read more). The book contained more than 300 recipes designed to encourage low-fat, low-cholesterol eating.

I recall I was strongly influenced in my food choices and cooking in the 1970s and 1980s by this “low-fat, low-cholesterol” food fad. For example, butter was out, polyunsaturated margarine was in. For many years I stopped using butter and used margarine instead in all my baked goodies.

Finally, Health Slice has no icing or frosting. Although Health Slice contains sugar (brown sugar, that is, refined sugar with molasses added), no further sugar is added in the form of icing. Not having to ice the cooked slice ensures Health Slice is quick to make and the end-product is a healthier option.

Health Slice is not iced, simply allowed to cool then cut into 15 squares. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.
  • Save
Health Slice is not iced, simply allowed to cool then cut into 15 squares. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.

The recipe for Health Slice is adaptable.

The recipe for Health Slice is easily doubled or halved. When I make the slice for a large number of people, I double the recipe and bake it in a lamington tray (dimensions 30.5 cm x 20.5 cm x 2.8 cm). If all of the slice is not consumed at one sitting, I store the remainder in the freezer for later use. The slice freezes well.

From time to time I replace a few of the dates and/or sultanas with equal quantities of ingredients such as dried apricots and crystallized ginger (ginger is a root vegetable). I really like the tarty apricot flavour and the “bite” of the ginger.

Sometimes I replace some of the dates with dried apricots and/or crystallized ginger. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.
  • Save
Sometimes I replace some of the dates with dried apricots and/or crystallized ginger. Photo source: Judith Salecich 2019.

My daughter Ruth adapts the recipe at times by replacing some of the sultanas with choc bits.

I’m aware that some people cannot eat peanuts. Foods containing peanuts cannot be brought into some schools. If you do not want to use peanuts in your Health Slice, replace them with an equal portion of almonds or walnuts, and/or seeds, like sunflower or sesame seeds.

Health Slice can be served in a variety of ways.

I’ve found that this moist and chewy fruit slice can be served for morning or afternoon tea, included in a work or school lunchbox or offered as a dessert with custard, yoghurt and fruit. Texture-wise, Health Slice is more like a cake than a biscuit. That’s probably why it’s suitable as a dessert – it resembles a fruit pudding, although it’s much lighter and not as rich. For comparison, you may like to read Fail-Me-Never Steamed Pudding, which I posted on my blog on August 3, 2016.

Two happy diners show their approval for my Health Slice served as a dessert. Photo source: Judith Salecich.
  • Save
Two happy diners show their approval for my Health Slice served as a dessert. Photo source: Judith Salecich.



1 cup wholemeal Self Raising flour
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup desiccated coconut
¾ cup chopped dates
¼ cup sultanas
½ cup crushed nuts
¾ cup milk (full-cream or low-fat)
1 teaspoon (5 mL) rum

¼ cup chopped apricots and/or crystallized ginger
(in lieu of equivalent measure of chopped dates)


  1. Add dry ingredients, fruit and nuts to a large bowl and stir to combine.
  2. Add milk and rum. Mix well. The mixture is fairly moist.
  3. Spread mixture evenly in a 27 cm x 17.5 cm slice tin that has been lined with baking paper.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius (or 160 degrees Celcius if using a fan-forced oven)
  5. Allow to cool in the tin, then turn out and cut into 15 squares.
  6. Serve squares for morning or afternoon tea, as a lunchbox treat or with custard or yoghurt and fruit as a dessert.

Source: A friend, Rockhampton, 1980s


#1. When was Australia’s first health food company established?

The Sanitarium Health Food Company was registered in 1898. The company, 100% Australian owned and operated, was established by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church to promote and produce plant-based “health” foods. One of its best-known products is Weet-Bix, a high-fibre, low-sugar breakfast cereal. The company is still going strong today. 

#2. When were SAO biscuits, one of Australia’s food icons, first marketed?

Arnott’s registered the SAO trademark in 1904 and began to market the biscuits in 1906. SAO biscuits are still made by Arnott’s. While there are conflicting reports about the origin of the name, it is widely believed that the biscuit was named in honour of William Arnott’s son, Arthur, who became a Salvation Army Officer (SAO). 

#3. Is ice-cream a “health food”?

In the 1930s, ice-cream was promoted as a healthy food. Its advocates claimed that ice-cream, made from whole milk and cream, had many advantages from a health point of view (read more). The following advertisement for Peter’s ice-cream appeared in my mother’s 1934 Cookery Book (published by Federal Press, Rockhampton).

1934 Advertisement for Peters Ice Cream.
  • Save
1934. Advertisement for Peters Ice Cream.

#4. When was Sunshine milk first sold in Australia?

In 1937. Sunshine milk, a powdered full-cream milk product, was welcomed by people who didn’t have access to daily fresh milk. My grandmother always used Sunshine powdered milk for everyday use and in her cooking. 

#5. Do you remember (or have you heard about) Australia’s school milk program?

In Australia in the 1950s and 1960s, all children under 13 attending school or kindergarten were provided with one third of a pint (about 200 mL) of fresh milk each school day. The school milk program was an initiative of the Commonwealth Government under Prime Minister Robert Menzies. It commenced in 1951 in all states but Queensland (Queensland came on board in 1953) and continued until the 1970s, when the Whitlam Labour Government put an end to the program.

School children taking free milk at a school in the Australian Capital Territory, 1965. Photo source: National Museum of Australia. Used with permission.
  • Save
School children taking free milk at a school in the Australian Capital Territory, 1965. Photo source: National Museum of Australia. Used with permission.

#6. What is “health food”?

Health food is a marketing term. There is no precise definition as to what constitutes “health food”. Such foods are often sold in so-called health food shops and are promoted as necessary over and above, or instead of, a normal balanced diet. 

#7. When was the term “foodie” first used?

It is reported that Gael Green invented the term “foodie” and first used it in New York Magazine in 1980. It describes a person obsessed with food. 

#8. What is the “Slow Food” movement?

The “Slow Food” movement was initiated by Carlo Petrini in Bra, Italy, in 1986. Its aim was to promote locally grown food and farm products and preserve traditional and regional cuisine and cooking methods. In essence, the movement was a reaction to “fast food”, popularized in the 1970s and 1980s as global fast food companies opened outlets throughout the developed world. 

#9. How many eggs should you eat each day?

In 1893, a newspaper report “Eggs a Healthy Food” claimed that daily consumption of eggs promotes longevity: If you eat at least one egg daily you will live to be 80 or 90 years old! 

#10. What is psyllium?

Psyllium is a natural dietary fibre, made from the husks of the seeds of the Plantago ovata plant. It’s used not only as a mild laxative, but also to treat mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol). As I have high blood cholesterol (but no other risk factors for heart disease or stroke), my doctor advised me to take one tablespoon of psyllium husks in a glass of water daily. My husband calls it “activated sludge”! I’ve been following my doctor’s advice for several years. It’s certainly a simple way to add fibre to your diet.

In the comments section below, I invite you to share one or two of your own healthy eating titbits.

  • Save
Photo of author

Judith Salecich

Writer, researcher, former secondary and tertiary teacher and public servant, wife, mother, grandmother, child of God, photography enthusiast, lover of life, history, food and all things creative.

Like this story?

Sign up to receive email notification each time I publish a new story on my blog.

6 thoughts on “Health Slice: Classic 1980s low-fat fare”

  1. Congratulations…your blog is included in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    Thank you, Chris

    I read this and had already decided to add almonds instead of peanuts, simply because I love them… and thought how good it would be with ginger too.Then again, what isn’t great with ginger? Then I read further and saw your extra suggestions.
    Recently, ill health had me drinking a lot of lemon and ginger tea, more than normal that is, and I added finely chopped ginger to that. I’m sure it helped me to get better more quickly.

    • Thanks, Chris. I’m pleased you read “Health Slice: Classic 1980s low-fat fare” and decided to try the recipe. I like your suggestions – I too sometimes use half peanuts, half almond slivers! Sorry to hear you have not been so well of late. I hope you are feeling better soon. Best wishes, Judy.

  2. Hi Judy
    I will make this slice when next on bake @ MM.
    I remember the site of Sanatarian at Taronga. Passed it on the Train line to work from Beenleigh.
    Before that it was CSIRO. My friend Sue worked there.
    I, of course was a recipient of the milk program. We all did our turn at being Milk Warden.
    It was mostly warm. I call these days uncomplicated and happy…
    Jenny x

    • Dear Jenny. Thanks so much for sharing your response to “Health Slice: Classic 1980s low-fat fare”. I’m so pleased you are going to make it when you are on morning tea roster next time. I baked this slice from time to time when I provided food for the Conversational English program. It was always popular. 
      Thanks also for sharing your connection with the Sanitarium factory. That’s an interesting piece of historical information. I wasn’t aware that there was a factory near Brisbane. And, like me, you were a participant in the school milk program (sorry your milk was warm). Two of many memories of times gone by. 
      Love and blessings, Judy.

  3. Dear Judith. I am going to bake the Health Slice next baking day. It sounds like exactly what I will enjoy. Yes, I remember the Sanitarium factory which was right in the heart of Brisbane near Roma Street. My husband Bob worked there making Weetbix in his teens. Thank you for your wonderful blogs which I discovered this morning. I knew about the Milk Program but didn’t participate in it. I didn’t like milk.God bless you.

    • I am certainly going to make this slice, looks delicious, can’t wait to make, thanks for this recipe

Leave a reply

Hi, I'm Judy

Short stories from the heart...about life, family and local history, people, places and food.

Let's connect