A CSIRO report has found many Aussies have poor diets. Here are five easy ways to improve yours

A CSIRO report has found many Aussies have poor diets. Here are five easy ways to improve yours
  • PublishedSeptember 18, 2023

Aussie diets have ranked poorly in a survey of nearly a quarter of a million Australian adults by the CSIRO.

The average diet barely scraped a pass on the CSIRO’s healthy diet score card, with most adults eating too little veg, and too much junk. 

Here are five simple ways you can boost your score. 

Eat more vegetables

This is a key factor in improving your diet, according to University of Queensland nutrition expert Sandra Capra. 

The CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report — which tracked the diets of more than 235,000 Australians over the age of eight — found only two in five people are eating enough vegetables. 

A hamburger and chips on a wooden board.
Aussie diets are dominated by junk food and alcohol. 

Professor Capra says with cost of living pressures and natural disasters pushing up the price of vegetables many people have turned to cheaper, more processed foods. 

“When people have less money, they tend to buy food that gives them more energy per dollar and as vegetables are perceived to be relatively expensive, people might move towards bread, for example, or more things that they can cook themselves from cheaper ingredients,” she said.

Professor Capra recommends buying in season and using cheaper vegetables like tinned tomatoes to save money.

“The simplest tip is to add vegetables to existing meals.

“So, for example, if you were going to have a cheese sandwich, have a cheese and tomato sandwich, or have a side salad with meals.”

Plan your meals in advance

The easiest way to eat more vegetables is to plan your meals ahead of time.

Professor Capra says planning your meals helps avoid the trap of constantly eating out or grabbing take away. 

The CSIRO report found nearly half of those in the survey were obese or overweight, so planning ahead can also help control portion size if you’re trying to lose weight, she says.  

“To improve your diet, you need to eat foods which are less processed.”

Containers of chopped vegetables, soup and cooked quinoa accompanied by boiled eggs.
Planning meals ahead makes it easy to up the amount of veg you eat. (ABC Everyday: Heidi Sze)

She suggests meal prepping and cutting vegetables up very fine and putting them with meat into pasta sauces.

Using the whole vegetable will also save you money, she says.

“Use the broccoli stems as well as the florets, cut them small and fine and mix them into your dishes.”

Swap to healthier snacks

Professor Capra says swapping snacks with healthier alternatives is an easy way to improve your diet.

She suggests swapping out your morning tea biscuit with a piece of fruit or core foods like cheese and wholemeal bread. It’s more filling, cheaper and healthier too. 

Eat less junk

Construction workers had the poorest diets, according to the report, while retirees and those in the fitness industry were the healthiest eaters.

It also found workers in construction and the fashion and beauty industry ate the most takeaway. 

Professor Capra says Australians are eating too many discretionary foods, which are foods high in sugar, fat and salt.

Australians’ favourite discretionary foods are alcohol, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, lollies and takeaway — and men eat 10 more serves of these a week, according to the survey. 

“Discretionary foods are foods that often cost a lot, and you can save money if you eat more basic foods that are both better for you and a lot cheaper,” Professor Capra says. 

She suggests adopting habits like baking your potatoes rather than frying them, and making homemade snacks ahead of time, instead of buying them.

Eat out less

You can save money and improve your diet by cutting back on how often you eat out or order takeaway, Professor Capra says. 

Often restaurant and fast-food meals are high in oil and fat, so cooking at home is the healthier option. 

“You can save money too by eating more basic foods, such as bringing a homemade salad sandwich to work, rather than going out and buying a sausage roll.”


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