Do you eat enough vegetables?  The average Aussie doesn’t, only spending seven per cent of their weekly shopping bill on vegetables. The Milk Moustache’s Alexia Attwood reports.

VO: Australians have it all wrong when it comes to grocery shopping. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Expenditure Survey, Australians only spend 7 per cent of their weekly shopping bill on vegetables. That’s roughly $14 on vegetables out of their weekly shopping budget of $204. Alarming statistics given we know that not all vegetables bought will be eaten. Australians throw out more than $1.1 billion worth of fruit and vegetables each year. This all indicates that the average Aussie has a very poor, vegetable deficient diet. There are many actions that can be taken by governments and the food industry to better manage Australia’s growing health problem, but will this be enough to stabilise permanent change?

Kylie Smyth is a dietician from Sydney. She says that when the diet becomes deficient in vegetables, people inevitably eat more processed foods that are high in added salt, sugar, and fat.

Kylie Smyth: And the health implications of this are then obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, which in combination, will give a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. Another health implication that needs to be considered is the risk to the bowel of not having enough fibre. So vegetables are one of the main sources of fibre in the diet, so once we’re not having enough fibre in the diet, we’re at higher risk of diverticulitis and colon cancer, and they’re all tings we’d rather avoid.

VO: Ms Smyth sees many ways in which governments and the food industry can improve their practice, and reverse Australia’s detrimental shopping habits.

Kylie Smyth: Healthy foods need more marketing, they need more promotion, and the government can take more responsibility for that. So even if they still allow junk food advertising to children, at least then match it with healthy food advertising.

VO: Dr Tim Gill is a principle research fellow at the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise & Eating. He says governments cannot manage better nutrition policies without introducing regular dietary surveys to measure the impact of its new strategies.

Tim Gill: This is not so much important from a research perspective, but more from the point of defining good policy. It is really difficult to make decisions about where to invest money, unless we know what people are eating, and we have up-to-date data. And on the other side of the equation, if we do intervene, if we run public campaigns, if we run community based interventions, even if we have structural change such as taxation policies or changes in access to fruit and vegetables, we need to know what impact these changes have had. And the only way we know what’s happening at a community level, is to have regular surveys, which include the collection of good quality data on nutrition and physical activity variables.

VO: Dr Gill says Australia is far behind its poorer regional neighbours, like the Philippines and Thailand, who have food surveys every five years. Dr Gill says there has been much talk of a need for regular nutrition and exercise surveys to improve policy, and improve the nation’s eating habits but no commitment.

This is Alexia Attwood, reporting for The Milk Moustache.


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