A new report from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has found that the nation is failing when it comes to embracing a balanced diet, with the national diet score falling well below a healthy level.

The CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report surveyed the dietary habits of over 235,000 adults across the country between 2015-2023. The results revealed an average diet score of 55 out of 100 – and highlights some of the Australians most at risk from their eating habits.

Australians in all occupations and age groups were invited to participate in the online survey between May 2015 and July 2023. The survey assesses nine areas of diet quality and estimates compliance with the Australian Dietary Guidelines.

Dr Gilly Hendrie, CSIRO Research Scientist and co-author of the CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report, said although Australians are often perceived as fit and healthy, the low collective score shows that Aussies just meet the pass mark when it comes to adopting the national dietary recommendations.

What aussies are eating

The report showed that when it comes to dietary performance, Australians fall short when it comes to discretionary, or junk foods. Alcohol, cakes and biscuits, chocolate and confectionery, and takeaway foods were found to be the biggest contributors.

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 – an indicator of a healthy diet.

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. This high score was achieved by predominantly choosing water over energy dense drinks such as soft drinks 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.

The report also showed that while women only have a slightly better diet quality than men, their vegetable intake is markedly higher.

“The score is a stark reminder of the work that needs to be done to improve our eating habits and reduce the national waistline.The good news is that a healthy diet can be achieved with some simple changes.  

“The things to keep in mind are to 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,” Dr Hendrie said.

CSIRO is calling on all Australians to take the free, online Healthy Diet Score assessment, which both evaluates diet quality and identifies individual areas of improvement.

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