Sep 13, 2023

Australians just scraping by on national diet score

CSIRO researchers have used new research to paint a picture of Australia’s eating habits – and they’re not great. [Source: Supplied]

Key points:

  • The research surveyed people across Australia across the nine areas of diet quality in all occupations and age groups between May 2015 and July 2023
  • The average score for vegetables was 58 out of 100, with only four out of 10 adults reporting eating three or more different vegetables at their main meal  which is an indicator of a healthy diet
  • Good nutrition is important, no matter what your age, but particularly for older people. It gives you energy, can help you control your weight and may help prevent some diseases, such as osteoporosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers

Although Australia is ripe with golden soil and premium produce the nation is failing when it comes to embracing a balanced diet, with the national diet score falling well below a healthy level.  

The new Healthy Diet Score report from Australia’s national science agency CSIRO outlined the dietary habits of over 235,000 adults across the country between 2015-2023.  

CSIRO Research Scientist and report co-author, Doctor Gilly Hendrie, said Australia’s low collective score shows that we only just meet 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,” she said. 

The closest Australians got to meeting the Australian Dietary Guidelines was with beverages, achieving a score of 93 out of 100. This high score was achieved by predominantly choosing water over energy-dense drinks such as soft drinks or juice. 

For older people, eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy improves diet quality. Similarly, it is advised to cut down on added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium or salt.

Someone who knows the impact of lifestyle changes and poor diet choices is 58-year-old Debbie from Victoria who began putting on weight despite being relatively active for most of her life. 

Debbie G after 5
Debbie after her weight loss journey. [Source: Supplied]

Debbie loved cooking and would often over eat but as she began going through menopause, her metabolism changed which left her unable to eat a lot of the things that she used to.

“I used to go to Zumba twice a week and walk on a treadmill, but I stopped even doing that. I hated what I had become and felt so uncomfortable. I had no nice clothes anymore and dreaded getting dressed up to go out. I didn’t take full photos of myself as I didn’t want to see myself. Weight gain had taken my confidence away,” Debbie explained. 

Debbie utilised the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet to better understand how to fuel herself with the right foods, reduce her portion sizes and stay true to the meal plans. 

“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.” 

For more information or to take the free CSIRO Healthy Diet Score visit the Total Wellbeing Diet website here

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