According to a recent CSIRO study*, most Australians aren’t getting enough fruit and vegetables in their diet.
The Fruit, Vegetable and Diet Score found:
- 76% of women and 85% of men don’t eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and vegetables.
- Just under 50% of men and women ate enough fruit (two serves a day).
- 39% women ate the recommended five serves of vegetables a day but only 23% of men hit their target.
- The wider variety of vegetables you eat, the more likely you’ll meet the recommended intake.
- Socio-economic factors may impact people’s fruit and vegetable intake.
What does this mean?
Despite most Australians having easy access to plant foods, most of us still don’t eat enough vegetables and barely enough fruit. The survey didn’t investigate the causes, nor did it ask questions about where or how we eat them.
From a health perspective we know that plant foods are high in so many vital nutrients, including fibre, vitamins and minerals. Eating a wide variety of raw and cooked fruits and vegetables each day can help our digestion, dental health and energy levels, and potentially impact every organ in our body.
What’s a serve?
One serve of vegetables equals half a cup of cooked or one cup of leafy/salad vegetables. A serve of fruit is one medium sized piece banana, apple or pear etc, or two small plums or apricots.
Most naturopaths believe that five serves of fruit a day is still not enough. How about aiming for at least seven different types of vegetables/pulses every day?
Ways to get more plant foods in your diet
- Start most days with raw muesli.
- Make shopping for fresh produce a routine.
- Cook more meals from scratch.
- If don’t always have time to cook, make bigger batches and freeze portions for busy days.
- Add more vegetables to meat dishes.
- Make sure there are a couple of different types vegetables in your lunch.
- Frozen berries are handy for when the fruit bowl is empty (and tastes great on muesli).
- Vegetable soup can bolster your intake, and it freezes well.
- Lentils and beans can increase your vegetable count.
- Count your vegetables – challenge yourself to eat seven or more different types of vegetables a day.
- If you cook at least half your meals at home, get a weekly veggie box delivered.
- Be mindful of eating a balanced lunch with protein and vegetables, on the days you know you’ll be eating on the run at night.
- If you’re an omnivore, include a couple of vegetarian meals in your week (such as stir fries, soups and curries, rather than pizza or pasta).
How to get enough vegetables when eating out
It can be challenging to get the recommended variety and quantity of vegetables when eating at restaurants or on the run. This isn’t a problem when dining out only once in a while but if you eat the majority of meals outside of home, your body will thank you for consciously including more plant foods. Try ordering a side salad instead of chips and remember to include some vegetable dishes when sharing a meal.
Surprisingly not all vegetarian or vegan meals are packed full of vegetables. Watch out for dishes based around faux meat or other animal food replacements.
*A closer look at the research
The project is collaboration between CSIRO and a weight-loss industry company. It’s important to note that CSIRO received funding from the horticultural industry for this research.
While 180,000 people participated in the survey, the methodology used was self-reporting on a website. There are a number of well documented issues around assessing diet in this way. Previous research has found people tend to under report the amount of junk and other low nutrition foods they eat, and over-estimate beneficial ones.
Despite it being in the funding body’s interest to encourage us to eat more fruit and vegetables and the potential flaws in the methodology, it’s undeniable that the majority of Australians need to eat more plant foods.