The food we eat plays an important role in our health and wellbeing. Good nutrition contributes to quality of life, helps maintain healthy body weight, protects against infection, and reduces the risk of chronic conditions and premature death. Chronic conditions—often linked with a poor diet—are the major cause of ill health in Australia.
Australia has national dietary guidelines to support optimal nutritional and health outcomes for the population. This report looks at whether Australians are meeting these guidelines, and how results differ across the life stages.
It shows that Australians of all ages generally:
- do not eat enough of the 5 food groups—vegetables, fruit, grains, meat and alternatives, and dairy products and alternatives
- eat too much food that is high in energy and low in nutrients (‘discretionary food’)
- eat too much sugar, saturated fat, and sodium (salt).
This suboptimal food and nutrient intake begins from an early age (as young as 2), which means good eating practices are not being established in early childhood to take forward into adulthood.
Despite this, the nutrient intake and nutrient status of Australians is generally adequate, but physical activity levels are low, and levels of overweight and obesity are high.
Leading contributors to discretionary food intake include pastries, snack foods and ice cream, while for adults, alcoholic drinks also dominate. Although sugar-sweetened drinks are leading contributors to added sugars intake, they feature lower down the list of leading discretionary foods for most age groups.