The newly released findings from the CSIRO Healthy Diet Score Survey show what we’ve all secretly suspected –we’re eating too much junk and not enough of the good stuff.
Way back when, convenience foods including takeaway, chips and lollies, and heavily processed snack foods and cereals were considered treats and consumed as such - the access simply wasn’t what it is today. So while it may not come as a surprise to hear we are all eating too much of it; it is probably a bit of a shock to hear we are eating three times the daily limit as recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
According to Professor Manny Noakes, CSIRO Research Director for Nutrition and Health and the co-author of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Online, the results of the CSIRO Health Diet Score survey, which was undertaken by 40, 000 Aussies across a range of demographics, are cause for concern – and action.
The problems don’t end with daily junk food consumption, although Professor Noakes says reducing our intake of these foods is the single best change any Aussie can currently make to improve their diet and health.
The whole thing’s a bit of a mess
It seems our overall diet quality is quite poor – Aussies were awarded an average rating of 61 on a 100-point scale, when assessed using the CSIRO Healthy Diet Score (a scientifically validated survey which assesses people’s diet quality against the Australian Dietary Guidelines.)
“The scores were fairly unflattering across all respondents. If we were handing out report cards for diet, quality then Australia would only get a C."
“While many people scored highly in categories such as water intake and the variety of foods consumed, there is certainly lots of room for improvement in other areas,” said Professor Noakes.
So how are women faring?
The good news for women is the average diet quality score for females was 63, while males only scored an average of 57.
Age also has an impact – the results found diet quality improves with age, and female responders aged over 70 receiving the best result (71 out of a possible 100) of any age category. Women also scored better than men in all food categories with the exception of breads and cereals.
The biggest difference seen between men and women was in the consumption of discretionary foods and vegetables, with women scoring 12 and 13 points higher in these categories.
But as with the menfolk, dairy food intake is nowhere near the recommended daily intake, with the women receiving a poor score of only 49 out of 100 in this category.
“When it comes to getting the right amount of dairy, it’s not just about the quality – such as choosing reduced fat milk over full cream; it is also largely dependent on having the right quantity. Having an inadequate amount of dairy can lead to people being malnourished and other long-term health problems, no matter what age you are,” Professor Noakes said.
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It’s easily fixed
The good news is, it’s all relatively simple to fix. As always, it comes back to embracing the basics – avoid heavily processed foods. Stick with wholegrains, fruit and veggies, lean protein, nuts, dairy and eggs and plenty of fresh water.
Keep an eye on your portion sizes
(except for veggies – it appears we could all stand to up the portions in that area!) And go for variety – lots of colour when it comes to your plant food is best, and means a better mix of nutrients.
Last but not least, look at herbs for adding flavour rather than too much salt.
So how do you measure up?
The online assessment can be completed at: www.csirodietscore.com
and Professor Noakes says they encourage people to take the test regularly to ensure they continue to improve eating habits and overall health and wellbeing.
“The online assessment provides Australians with a simple and trusted way of self-assessing the quality of their diet and how they compare to others of the same age, gender, generation, profession as well as people from the same State and across the country, “ she says.
How healthy is your diet? Take the online assessment and tell us your score in the comment section below!