03 Jul 2017
The verdict is in – Australians have terrible eating habits.
There’s no denying it – Australians love food. In fact, we love it so much that we are certainly developing a slight obesity problem. However, despite what many reports may have you believe, Australia is not the most obese nation in the world, nor do we rank second.
In fact, Australia doesn’t even make it into the top 20. The United States does, at number 18. The top 9 are Pacific island nations, with Kuwait coming in at number 10. This is great news for us, but it certainly doesn’t mean that Australian eating habits are as good as they could be.
A recent report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and a major study from market research company Mintel paint a rather varied picture of the way we Australians consume our food.
While we definitely have highly varied diets, one of the most concerning aspects of Australian eating habits is the amount we consume junk food and highly processed snacks, also known as discretionary food. In fact, a whopping 35% of our average energy intake falls into this category.
Even worse, children aged between 14 and 18 get 41% of their total energy intake from discretionary food. It’s easy to blame the parents, but there is a lot of advertising pressure on kids to eat poorly, and not a lot of positive nutrition advice out there.
Every 24 hours, we consume over 3kg of food on average. This is higher than the global average. Now, it may not be that bad if that contained a large percentage of vegetables, fruits and was otherwise nutritionally balanced. However, as the statistics above show, a lot of our energy intake comes via poor nutrition.
One of the most alarming statistics about Australian eating habits is that less than 7% of us meet our daily vegetable intake requirements. While 75% get some vegetables every single day, it’s very disappointing to see only around 1 in 15 of us eat a sufficiently healthy amount of vegetables.
Vegetables have a huge amount of benefits, and are consumed sensibly, basically zero downsides. This seems to be one of the easiest areas for Australian eating habits to improve.
Just over half of us (54%) get our recommended daily intake of fruit. Like vegetables, this could be easily improved, especially as many fruits are a great snack food that can easily be consumed on the go.
Interested in finding out more about diet-friendly snacks? Read our blog post on 8 Clean Eating Snacks Under 200 Calories!
It’s not all bleak. While our existing habits could do with a lot of improvement, there are quite a few positive trends pervading the landscape of Australian eating habits. As the importance of good nutrition becomes more widely understood, more and more Australians are likely to adopt healthy eating habits and seek to make positive improvements to their life.
For years, the CSIRO has warned us that Australians are not eating enough fruits and vegetables. We’ve had extensive government-funded advertising campaigns that attempt to reverse this trend, and for good reason – meeting your daily recommended intake of fruits and vegetables greatly reduces your risk factor for a number of major health concerns.
In a nation with a robust public healthcare system, it makes sense for the government to take every step possible to create future savings by encouraging healthier eating habits now.
The good news is, more Australians are opting for vegetables and fruit over meat. In fact, 14% of Australians are making a concerted effort to avoid red meat in their diet. For a country with such a strong beef industry, this is an impressive statistic.
The trend is definitely growing. Compared to a year ago, 10% more Australians are opting to get their protein requirements from dairy and plants rather than meat. This is great for the environment too, considering the enormous ecological impact that livestock agriculture has.
Eating on the go is increasingly popular among Australian consumers. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of food and drink products hitting the market that claim to be able to be consumed “on the go” increased by 55%.
This strongly reflects how Australians are choosing to eat. As our lives become increasingly busy, set mealtimes are getting rarer and rarer. Most consumers want to be able to eat while performing other tasks – often with a single hand.
While this statistic may be bad news for those of us that wish people would focus more on what they’re putting in their bodies, it does have one ray of hope – fruit can easily be eaten on the go.
21% of Australians eat lunch at their desks. That’s 1 in 5 people who aren’t taking time out of their day to dedicate to eating an important meal. While it may be reflective of a diet that is increasingly composed of 5-6 smaller meals rather than 3 big ones, it’s more likely due to greater expectations of employees.
Processed food is becoming increasingly unpopular as more Australians start to get an idea of the disappointing level of nutrition in these food products. The hipster revolution has brought with it a lot of benefits, including a preference for traditional methods of producing food.
Products such as sourdough bread are becoming more popular, as well as traditionally made pasta. One of the driving factors for this trend may be trusted. When you know exactly what’s going into your food, it’s far easier to put it into your mouth.
This is one of the most positive trends in Australian eating habits. Food wastage is an enormous issue, to the extent that some nations, such as South Korea, are instituting food wastage taxes.
Around 20% of the food that Australians buy is thrown in the trash. However, there are strong indications that most Australians are making sincere efforts to reverse that trend. They have to because our retailers are behind the rest of the world in terms of avoiding good wastage.
Sure, our current eating habits aren’t very good. However, the future is bright. As more Australians seek to learn about what they’re putting into their bodies and make the effort to pursue positive change, we’ll hopefully see a healthier future.
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