60% of us are overweight or obese

NOT enough vegetables and too much junk food - that's the worrying state of Australians' health, as revealed in a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing.

And another study has revealed what most restaurateurs already know - that Australians are eating out less and, when they do, they are opting for lower cost takeaways and dine-in meals.

The health report showed that 36% of Australians' food energy intake came from treat foods such as chips, takeaway and cakes and soft drinks, while nine out of 10 Australians do not eat the recommended five serves of vegetables each day.

Dieticians Association of Australia spokeswoman and accredited dietician Lisa Renn said that while the report confirmed existing knowledge, she was concerned about Australian eating habits.

"Australians definitely aren't eating enough vegetables and we know that if you do have enough vegetables, it reduces the risk of chronic diseases and obesity, which also can cause problems like heart disease," she said.

"Another really concerning issue is the high consumption of soft drinks, confectionary and snack foods - people seem to be eating these as part of their regular diet when they really should be in the 'extras' category".

Ms Renn said there were simply things people could do to improve their diets, such as filling up on vegetables at meal time and choosing healthy options at the supermarket.

"We know a lot of people think they know what they should be eating, but often this isn't translating when they're at the shops or driving home after work," she said.

"It's really easy to eat healthier, and there's now a lot of portion-measured meals and healthy options at the supermarket.

"It can be as easy as keeping a bag of frozen vegetables in the freezer and adding them to dinner, or instead of using butter for cooking, using a small amount of vegetable oil which is lower in saturated fats."

Ms Renn said families struggling to get children to eat certain vegetables should persevere and keeping putting them on the plate, and if they wanted specific advice, a practising, accredited dietician could help.

She said Australians also seemed to be eating at home more often, a point backed up by a food service industry report released on Wednesday.

The BIS Shrapnel research, Australia's Foodservice Market 2012 report, revealed the food industry had found meal services had been quieter in the past year, down 1% on 2011, attributing the decline to consumers watching spending more carefully.

"In short, pasta and risotto is up while steak is down, for example," BIS head of foodservice Sissel Rosengren said.

"People might still buy an entrée, but now it's usually a cheaper item such as a soup or a salad."

She said there was also a return to tradition western comfort foods, such as bangers and mash and fish and chips.

The Australian diet:

  • 9 in 10 adults do not eat enough vegetables
  • Teenage girls do not eat enough dairy foods
  • 25% of men and 10% of women older than 65 do not eat enough protein
  • 23% of children aged 2 to 16 are overweight or obese
  • 60% of Australian adults are overweight or obese

SOURCE: AIHW Australia's Food and Nutrition 2012 Report.

Topics:  australia diet food health

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