A 2016 CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report examined the dietary habits of 86,500 adults over a period of 12-months in Australia. The study assessed compliance with Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Regular intake of fruits, grains, meat, vegetables and other foods and beverages were noted. The resulting diet quality is scored out of 100.
The results, as mentioned in an article by The Guardian, were truly startling as the participants scored 61 out of 100 points as per an early snapshot of the scores. This point slipped to 59 out of 100 when 47,000 additional surveys were completed recently, states news.com.au.
On the range of measures, Australians had a high score on fruit consumption, with 49% having the recommended intake.
The biggest cause of concern is junk food, with only 1% of respondents saying they did not consume any and more than one in three saying they ate beyond the maximum allowance.
In 2014, Mike Daube, a professor in health policy at Curtin University, observed that Australians are lowering their vegetable consumption levels, with fast food eclipsing other food staples. In general, Australians eat about three kilograms of food and drink every day. They get over one-third of their energy from foods that are rich in sugar and saturated fats such as cake, alcohol, soft drinks and chips.
According to the CSIRO research director and co-author of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, Manny Noakes, Australians are increasingly displaying unhealthy food habits: “We aren’t planning, we are buying a lot of junk food from supermarkets, and indulging in large serving sizes”.
Out of the total respondents, 80 percent had scores below the benchmark of 70 out of 100. Yet in comparison to men, women scored better on nutritional levels. Women scored 60 out of 100 versus 56, and one in three adults are avoiding one or more foods such as dairy, meat or gluten.
Those working in the construction industry seem to have the poorest diet, whereas public servants, real estate officials and workers in the health sector displayed healthy eating patterns. Noakes pointed out that the culture of eating that is prevalent in the workplace affects a person’s diet score.
Professor Noakes urges Australians to act now in order to improve their intake of healthy foods, and reduce “growing rates of obesity and lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and a third of all cancers”.
An increase in 10 points can only happen from cutting down on the discretionary food eaten and by doubling your vegetable intake. As Professor Noakes says: “All people need to do is halve the bad and double the good”.
Similar trends can be seen in the Shape of Victoria survey, conducted by the Cancer Council and the Heart Foundation, which found that fast food is now the new normal. Out of the people surveyed, only 13 percent of Victorians believed their diet was unhealthy which is extremely concerning.
Jane Martin, executive manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition, admonished Australians for their unhealthy eating habits in a Sydney Morning Herald article. She encourages the use of a “healthy food star rating system” that can incentivize companies to keep consumers informed about healthy food alternatives. The success of processed foods also indicates how pervasive food giants like McDonalds, Hungry Jacks and KFC have become among teenagers today.