Australians are choosing discretionary food – foods that are high in energy but low in nutritional value – over fruits and vegetables, according to results from the Australian Health Survey released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Heart Foundation dietitian Shane Landon says the results further confirm what we know about the Australian diet.
“This data shows us the majority of Australians are not eating high quality diets in line with the Australian Dietary Guidelines,” he says.
“Over a third (35%) of Australians source their energy from discretionary foods with only 6% meeting the recommended daily intake of vegetables and although better, just 52% of people met the recommended usual daily intake of fruit,” Landon says.
The survey found the proportion of people from each State and Territory who met the recommended usual daily intake of vegetables ranged between 9% in Tasmania and 5% in Queensland, the Northern Territory and the ACT.
Those most likely to meet the recommendations for fruit were from the ACT and NSW (54%) and least likely were from Tasmania (48%).
“Having an unhealthy diet that is high in salt and saturated fat and low in nutritionally rich whole foods can lead to high LDL (bad) cholesterol and possibly high blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease – the single leading cause of death in Australia for both men and women,” Landon says.
Interestingly, the choice of treat differed across the country with Northern Territorians having the highest proportion of people who consumed soft drink (33%), however they were less keen on confectionery (20%) and snack food (13%), being the least likely to consume these foods.
Tasmanians were the fondest of confectionery with over a third (37%) selecting it as their treat of choice and snack foods were most popular in NSW where 16% of people ate them.
On the other hand, soft drink was least popular in Canberra where only 23% of people reported drinking it.
“There are so many competing ‘diets’ in the marketplace and the internet offers a plethora of mixed advice from questionable sources leading to confusion for many people in terms of what a healthy eating pattern looks like,” says Landon.
“Which is why the Heart Foundation believes we need to keep messages around food based on science, consistent and simple so that people have the confidence to adopt a healthier eating pattern, not a short term ‘diet’.”