According to a survey by insurers NobleOak, adults in Australia spend a third (32%) of their weekly food budget on fast food, and most eat insufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables as well as being unaware of the link between unhealthy diets and health conditions.
By contrast, only 25% of Australians in 1988 spent their food budget eating out.
Convenience is number one
The survey revealed when it came to dietary choices, most Australians favoured convenience. 63% of respondents were most likely to prioritise food that was easy to purchase, and quick to cook (59%).
Rachel Scoular, APD dietitian & nutritionist said: "I think the main contributor is convenience. In the past, fast food and takeaway usually meant Chinese food and pizza, mainly ordered on weekends.
“But third-party ordering apps such as Menulog, Deliveroo and Uber Eats make it easier than ever to buy fast food within minutes. We’re now seeing higher consumption rates throughout the week and not just on weekends," she added.
Fruits and vegetables
The survey also found that 55% of respondents admitted to eating less than one portion of fruit or vegetables per day.
Only 17% of Australians said they managed to eat five portions a day.
This finding echoed the AIHW's Nutrition across the life stages report of 2018, which revealed that Australians fall well short of their daily recommended vegetable intake.
Scoular said the survey figures were alarming: "I think there’s a great opportunity for intervention and nutrition education here, small changes and simple swaps to alter your intake to include for fruits and vegetables, wholegrain cereals and low-fat products are all great steps that are quite easily achieved."
She added it would be nice to see outlets providing mandatory fruit and vegetable sides as part of their combo meals and packs.
She said in Australia, there was an abundance of fresh and quality produce, so she urged consumers “to encourage one another to be more adventurous when exploring fruits and vegetables, along with different cooking methods.”
Link between poor diet and health issues
The survey also revealed that more than half of adults in Australia were unaware of the link between an unhealthy diet and various health conditions.
59% of respondents were unaware that a long-term unhealthy diet was scientifically linked to depression, types of cancer (57%), weaker immune system (54%), kidney disease (52%) and early death (51%).
Obesity was the most widely recognised health issue linked to an unhealthy diet, where only one in six respondents (16%) were unaware of the link.
Scoular said food manufacturers could also play a part by making healthy foods more affordable, “Price is a major barrier (or excuse) for many. We need to look at maximising our use of seasonal, fresh produce to ensure manufacturers are still making a reasonable profit margin, yet also keeping it affordable for consumers.”
According to the National Health Survey in 2018, more than two thirds of Australians are now overweight or obese.
In August this year, Australia’s health ministers ordered a review to consider making it compulsory for packaged foods and drinks to carry labels quantifying the amount of added sugar they contain.
This move would potentially see soft drinks and sugary beverages, which have been directly linked with obesity in a number of studies, come with pictures of multiple teaspoons of sugar on their labels.