The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has released a report today on Australian’s diet across different stages of life
– and the results? We have some work to do.
The 5 food groups
The Australian Dietary Guidelines
encourage people to consume the right types and amounts of food to support their energy and nutrient needs, consisting of a variety of foods from the 5 food groups:
- Lean meat and alternatives
- Dairy products and alternatives
The guidelines also recommend that we limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol.
The report shows that across all stages of life, Australians generally do not eat enough food from the 5 food groups.
"For example, very few of us eat enough vegetables. This is at its worst among children aged 2–18, 99% of whom do not eat enough vegetables," said AIHW spokesperson Claire Sparke. Similar results were seen for the other food groups.
When looking at the average daily intake of foods for different age groups, only children aged 2–8 meet the fruit recommendations. For grains, only males aged 4–11, females aged 9–11 and females aged 71 and over meet the recommendations. Toddlers aged 2–3 are the only group to meet the dairy recommendations.
A junk food diet
In addition to missing the mark on the 5 food groups, our diet consists of more than the recommended amount of discretionary foods- in other words, we’re eating too much junk food.
“We are also consuming too much added sugars, saturated fat and sodium (salt), which is probably because about one-third of Australians’ energy intake comes from discretionary food” says Sparke,
Discretionary foods are foods and drinks that are not necessary to provide the nutrients we need and include items such as cakes, biscuits, confectionary, pastries, potato chips, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks.
‘The level of discretionary foods consumed is even higher for teenagers, making up more than 40% of their daily energy intake,’ Ms Sparke said.
For children, cakes, muffins, sweet biscuits, chips and ice cream are some of the leading contributors to their intake of discretionary food. For adults aged 51–70, alcoholic drinks account for more than one-fifth of discretionary food intake.
“In the teenage years, when discretionary food intake peaks, it is concerning that the data also shows a decline in physical activity at the same time. Physical activity levels are lower among teenagers—both girls and boys—than any other age group”.
It’s not all bad news
Despite these concerning findings, the report does have some good news.
Says Sparke, “We’re generally getting enough of the nutrients we need in our diets; however, iron and calcium intakes for girls and women in some age groups do need to improve,”.
“Since 1995, we’ve also seen a general decrease in the contribution of added sugars and fat to our energy intake, as well as a fall in how much discretionary food we’re eating.”
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How to make healthy eating easy
Making a continuing commitment to healthy eating isn’t supposed to be hard work. It’s all about moderation.
Give yourself permission to have treats occasionally - just don’t let occasionally become every meal of every day.
If you do have one or two days of unhealthy eating, don’t feel guilty - just shrug it off and start the next day with a renewed commitment to your healthy eating plan.
How to get started
Start by making small changes every day:
This might be as simple as swapping the biscuits part of your afternoon tea and bickie with a whole food packed protein ball
, or eating a handful of almonds and cashews instead of potato chips
Become a meal planner:
Commit to a weekly meal plan and grocery list. When you go food shopping buy only what’s on your list and skip the chips, chocolate and snack aisle
Make 5 serves of veg and 2 serves of fruit simple:
Easy ways to get lots of fruits and vegetables include smoothies, salads, soups and adding salads to wraps and sandwiches.
Healthy eating is a team sport:
Enlist your friends, family and workmates to commit to healthier eating. Get the kids involved in cooking healthy meals
to set them up with good habits for live.
How will you make your meals healthier? Tell us in the comments section below.