The statistics on Australians‘ eating habits are in, and as it turns out, we’re not the healthy nation we think we are.
We also produce a tonne of animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, but new research shoes we’re on the back foot when it comes to actually consuming all this natural, nutritious goodness.
According to data collated for the CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report, the 235,000 Aussie adults who participated scored an average of 55 out of 100. The findings were sourced over an eight-year period between 2015 and 2023, and showed a bad pattern among two groups of Aussies workers.
So, who are the worst culprits?
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Construction workers were among those with the poorest diets (51/100), while retirees and those working in the fitness industry reported some of the healthiest eating patterns (59/100). Still, even that figure isn’t great.
Interestingly, alongside construction workers, people who worked in the beauty/fashion industry reported the highest discretionary, or unhealthy, food consumption, at an average of 45 serves per week.
The report also showed that while women only have a slightly better diet quality than men (56 v 53/100), their vegetable intake is markedly higher (62 vs 54/100).
The report showed we only just met the pass mark when it comes to adopting the national dietary recommendations.
“The score is a stark reminder of the work that needs to be done to improve our eating habits and reduce the national waistline,” said Dr Gilly Hendrie from the CSIRO.
Let’s put all this information into perspective.
The discretionary food component of the report showed that on average, we consume 28 serves a week. The foods that were the biggest contributors to this score were alcohol, cakes and biscuits, confectionary and takeaway meals.
Only four out of 10 adults ate three or more vegetables with their main meal.
Despite alcohol being a big contributor to the above, the CSIRO did find that Aussies are choosing water over soft drinks, energy drinks and juice, leading to a score of 93 out of 100.
“The good news is that a healthy diet can be achieved with some simple changes,” Dr Hendrie said. “The things to keep in mind is reduce, increase and add variety.
„In other words, reduce the amount of discretionary foods being consumed, increase healthy foods including fruit and dairy and alternatives, and aim for variety by eating three or more different types of vegetables with your main meal.“
It sounds so simple, but will we change our eating habits? Maybe the threat of lifestyle disease will.
“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.
“It is clear that we have a long way to go. As a nation, we need to be eating better. We encourage people to take the test and improve their understanding of how their diet stacks up. It’s never too late to improve eating behaviour and overall health and wellbeing,” Dr Hendrie said.
To give you an idea, each day an Australian adult should be eating five serves of veggies, two or three serves of fruit, six serves of grains, two-and-a-half serves of lean meat or vegetarian alternatives, and the same for dairy.
CSIRO is calling on all Australians to take the free, online Healthy Diet Score assessment, which both evaluates diet quality and identifies individual areas of improvement. Take the assessment here.