A healthy diet includes a variety of foods that provide fluid, important vitamins and minerals, fibre and food energy. Aim for at least six servings of vegetables and three or more servings of fruit each day. Choose whole grains such as oats, wheat or barley and try to include some foods rich in fibre like beans, lentils and unsalted nuts.
Only two in five Australians are eating enough vegetables, a report by the CSIRO has revealed.
- The CSIRO asked more than 235,000 Australians about what they eat
- Those surveyed barely scraped a pass, with an average score of 55 out of 100
- Only four in 10 adults eat three or more different vegetables at their main meal
The CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report surveyed more than 235,000 Australian adults over eight years.
It found only 35 per cent of the population is eating enough vegetables and that alcohol, takeaway food, and confectionary dominate diets.
Construction workers had the poorest diets, according to the report, while retirees and those in the fitness industry were the healthiest eaters.
The report looked at nine factors — including quantity, quality and variety of foods eaten — and estimated compliance with the Australian Dietary Guidelines and scored it out of 100.
The closer to 100, the healthier the diet.
Report co-author Gilly Hendrie said those surveyed had only scraped a pass, with an average diet score of 55 out of 100.
“The score is a stark reminder of the work that needs to be done to improve our eating habits and reduce the national waistline.”
What’s on our menus?
The report found at about 28 servings a week, discretionary foods were the lowest-scoring area of diet quality across all age groups and genders, with a score of 20 out of 100.
Alcohol, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, confectionery and takeaway foods were found to be the biggest contributors.
The average score for vegetables was 58 out of 100, with only four out of 10 adults reporting that they eat three or more different vegetables at their main meal — which is the indicator of a healthy diet.
The best-scoring category was beverages, with survey respondents scoring 93 out of 100, achieved predominantly by opting for water over soft drinks and juices.
At 45 serves per week, the report found construction workers and people in beauty and fashion ate the most junk food.
Women had only a slightly better diet quality than men but had a markedly higher vegetable intake.
“Improving our collective score is important to increasing our wellbeing, tackling Australia’s obesity crisis, and mitigating lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers,” Dr Hendrie said.
How to improve your diet
Lauren Ball, professor of Community Health and Wellbeing at the University of Queensland, said the report was unsurprising.
“It is something that we’ve known for a long time, that Australia is so well positioned to eat well, however, that’s not what we see when we look at the evidence in terms of the food that Australians eat at the moment.”
She said buying fresh produce and avoiding processed foods were easy ways to quickly improve diets.
“Veggies and fruits should be the cornerstone of our daily diet,” Professor Ball said.
“Whenever you’re in a position to make a choice between a meal or an option that’s higher in veggies or fruit, or lower, choose one that’s higher.
“Anything that comes from the aisles that you walk up and down in supermarkets as opposed to the outside area, anything that’s packaged and processed, they’ll be higher in sodium.”
Professor Ball said eating healthy could still be viable on a budget, by buying in season when a fruit or vegetable is at high supply, which lowers the price.
“The easiest way to do that would probably be going to a farmers market,” she said.
“Planning ahead is another big recommendation that can save money as well because you can eat well on a budget, it’s just a matter of thinking about the best way to do that and being prepared.”
Health is wealth
Professor Ball said the old adage that ‘you can’t put a price on your health’ had never been more relevant.
“Increasingly over time, we’re seeing that health is a really true indication of overall prosperity in today’s day and age,” she said.
“Anything we can do to support our own health and wellbeing is becoming increasingly important and this should be at the top of all of our priorities in terms of the way that we can look after ourselves.”