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News Yikes! Diet study shows that Aussies really need to eat more veg

Nutrition
Liv's author bio image

Author: Liv Published: November 13, 2023

Read the full article at ABC News 12/09/23

In slightly alarming news, a recent CSIRO report has found that only 2 in 5 Australians are eating enough veggies 😲🥕

The CSIRO Healthy Diet Score study surveyed more than 235,000 Australian adults over a period of 8 years, and assessed their diets against a range of criteria – including the quantity, quality, and variety of foods they ate. 

Each participant’s diet was then rated according to its compliance with the Australian Dietary Guidelines, with a score of 100 being the best. 

Report co-author, Dr. Gilly Henreid, said the average Aussie’s score was 55, which barely scraped a pass. 

“The score is a stark reminder of the work that needs to be done to improve our eating habits … Improving our collective score is important to increasing our wellbeing, tackling Australia’s obesity crisis, and mitigating lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers.”

Changing our diet can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be

Experts say that eating at least three different vegetables at your main meal is a strong indicator of a healthy diet.

But with many Aussies juggling busy lives and tight budgets, it’s completely understandable that some of us have fallen into the habit of reaching for convenience foods, rather than packing our plates with fresh produce like we know we should.

The demands of planning nourishing meals can feel like a lot, even just for one person – let alone if you’re cooking for other people or little ones in your household. It’s important to give yourself grace on your healthy eating journey, and remember that it’s about doing your best to lean towards nourishing, plant-based meals as much as you can – not about being perfect. 

Sometimes you simply won’t have time for anything but a packaged snack or a takeout meal, and that’s okay! Be kind to yourself, and try taking small, sustainable steps towards eating more plants in a way that feels enjoyable to you, rather than trying to overhaul everything at once.

The experts say: Swap processed foods for fresh produce

Results of the CSIRO study showed that the main culprits in terms of dietary distractions for most Aussies are alcohol, takeaway foods, lollies, cakes, biscuits, and chocolate.

Researchers have therefore identified buying more fresh produce and avoiding processed foods as a simple way of ensuring that your meals are more nutritious. 

Anything that comes from the aisles that you walk up and down in supermarkets as opposed to the outside area, anything that’s packaged and processed, they’ll be higher in sodium … Veggies and fruits should be the cornerstone of our daily diet.

Professor Lauren Ball, University of Queensland

(This doesn’t have to mean giving up on indulgent treats entirely – it might just look like making a healthier option at home, like these dessert recipes that each contain an undetectable veggie ingredient to help boost your intake!)

Health is wealth, in more ways than one

Professor Ball says that the old adage ‘you can’t put a price on your health’ has never been more relevant – but, contrary to popular belief, a plant-rich diet can actually be cheaper than the typical Aussie diet. 

A research study from Deakin University found that by shifting to a mostly plant-based diet, the average Australian family could save over $1800 every year. The savings really add up!

For Australians who are conscious of their health and their budget, Professor Ball suggests going to a farmers market, where produce is likely to be in season and therefore more affordable. 

You can also find seasonal produce at the grocery store – just look for the Australian-grown label, and be sure to check out the specials. If fruit and veg is heavily discounted, it’s likely because it’s in season and therefore in high supply.

Planning ahead is another big recommendation that can save money as well, because you can eat well on a budget. It’s just a matter of thinking about the best way to do that, and being prepared.

Professor Lauren Ball, University of Queensland

Ready to get started? 🌿

Okay, so we hear the message loud and clear that we need to buy and eat more veggies – but what does changing our cooking and eating habits actually look like in practise?

Check out these small, everyday changes that are super easy to implement, and have a huge payoff in terms of helping you get more plant-based foods into your meals.

One place you can start is our handy list of vibrant, satisfying, genuinely crave-worthy salads! You can also grab a free Veg Starter Kit here for even more tips, cooking hacks, and nutritious recipe ideas.

Imagine if we all add just one extra serve of veg to each of our main meals this week – we’ll be boosting our national veggie intake in no time!

Header image: © Queensland Government
Liv's author bio image

Meet Liv!

Having grown up in a “meat and 3 veg” kind of household, Liv’s embarrassed to admit that she was a bit of a one-note chef until she began exploring the world of plant-based food. Vegan cooking has given her a whole new appreciation for the symphonies of flavours that simple, nourishing wholefood ingredients can create. (Even eggplant, once her greatest nemesis, is now — in a delicious, miso-glazed redemption arc — her all-time favourite veg.)

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