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Australians eating badly, getting fatter, says report

By Ankush Chibber , 24-Jul-2012
Last updated on 24-Jul-2012 at 19:38 GMT

Almost 91% of the adults in Australia are not eating enough vegetables and only 50% are eating enough fruit, a dietary imbalance that is showing on their waistlines, said Australia Food and Nutrition 2012.

As per the report, 25% of men and 10% of women aged 65 and over are not eating enough protein, while surveys have also found that women are more likely to have inadequate calcium intakes than men.

Further, almost 20% of adults are drinking alcohol at risky levels; men more so than women, particularly those aged between 18 and 29, said the report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Getting fat down under

And these dietary vagaries are showing on Aussie waistlines. As per the report, 17% of children (aged 2–16) are overweight and a further 6% are obese, while 36% of adults are overweight and a further 25% are obese.

For children in Australia, the report found that compared to dietary recommendations, most nutrients are adequate, although they are eating too much saturated fat and sugar and not enough calcium.

Additionally, most children are not eating enough fruit and vegetables and older girls (aged 9–16) are not drinking enough milk.

While not explicitly making the link, the report did say that food advertising to children is very common in Australia and most is for foods high in fat, sugar or salt content.

“Children who watch 20 hours of television or more per week [almost 3 hours per day] are twice as likely to be overweight or obese as children who watch less television,” the report said.

Adults choosing foods based on peer influence, personal beliefs

According to the report, Australians choose their foods influenced by price, availability, culture, personal preferences and health and nutrition concerns.

“Food is an important part of our social and family lives, and the eating habits and preferences of those around us influence our food choices,” it said.

Personal beliefs also influence food choices, such as concerns about the environmental impact of growing particular foods, and people also choose foods based on health concerns, such as high blood pressure, allergies, high cholesterol, or a need to lose weight.

Whatever maybe the influence, Australians are not choosing the right kind of foods to eat seen from a health and nutrition end, the report said finding that of the AU$237 a week households spent on food and beverages in 2009-10, about AU$63 a week was spent on food from restaurants and takeaways.

Junk getting a chunk of household expenditure

Additionally, households spent an average of AU$32 a week on alcoholic drinks, while meat, fish and seafood collectively accounted for AU$30 a week of household expenditure on average.

According to the report, between 2009 and 2011, the top five food categories sold at local supermarkets were dairy foods (milk, cheese, yoghurt and butter); cold beverages (soft drinks, sports drinks, and mineral waters); frozen foods; confectionery; and bakery items (such as bread).

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