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Aussie adults’ junk food obsession is not ‘sweet as’

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Australians, including many Hunter residents, have an unhealthy obsession with junk food, devouring 28 serves per week.

And, it’s those working in construction and the beauty and fashion industries that are the worst among us.

Alcohol, cakes and biscuits, chocolate and confectionery, and takeaway foods are all being over-consumed by all age and sex groups.

Only four in 10 Australian adults eat more than three different types of vegetables in their main meal. 

In fact, the CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report shows as a nation we are failing well below what is considered a healthy level. 

The report is the result of canvassing the dietary habits of more than 235,000 adults across the country between 2015-2023. 

Figures compiled by the national science agency revealed an average diet score of 55 out of 100. 

They also highlight which Australians are most at risk from their eating habits. 

CSIRO research scientist and co-author of the CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report Dr Gilly Hendrie said although Australians were often perceived as fit and healthy, the low collective score showed that we just meet the pass mark when it came 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,” Dr Hendrie said. 

All occupations, from all age groups were invited to participate in the online survey between May 2015 and July 2023.  

The survey assessed nine areas of diet quality and estimates compliance with the Australian Dietary Guidelines. 

Junk food is King 

The report found Aussies consume on average 28 serves of junk food (or discretionary food) per week, the lowest scoring area of diet quality with a score of 20 out of 100.  

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. 

A healthy diet can be achieved with some simple changes like increasing how many vegetables we are eating, say doctors at CSIRO.

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

Meats and alternatives came in second with Australians registering a collective score of 78 out of 100 for compliance with the dietary guidelines. 

Construction workers were among those with the poorest diets (51/100), while retired Australians and those working in the fitness industry reported some of the healthiest eating patterns (59/100). 

Those working in construction and the beauty/fashion industry reported the highest discretionary food consumption, at around 45 serves per week. 

The report also showed that while women only have a slightly better diet quality than men (56 v 53/100), their vegetable intake is markedly higher (62 vs 54/100). 

“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. 

“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.” 

“It is clear that we have a long way to go,” added Dr Hendrie. 

“As a nation, we need to be eating better.” 

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