So to set these guidelines, certain assumptions are made about dietary practices, such as breakfast being based around cereal/grain and dairy foods, and main meals being comprised of meat and vegetables, usually with a side of something starchy like rice, pasta or the humble potato – an Australian staple.
Does this mean it’s the only pattern to meet all the nutrient requirements? No. Could an adult be equally healthy if they ate three serves of fruit and four serves of vegetables? Yes, probably.
Aussies eat more potatoes than any other veggie.
Agence Producteurs Locaux Damien Kühn/Unsplash, CC BY Why is two and five such a hard ask?
populations of most Western countries report eating far less fruit and vegetables than they’re supposed to. So what’s making it so hard for us to get to two and five?
Diets higher in fat, sugar and grains are
generally more affordable than the recommended healthy diets high in fruit and veg. In fact, for Australians on low incomes, a healthy food basket for a fortnight would cost 28 to 34% of their income, up to twice the national average for food expenditure.
As a result, people with limited access to food for financial reasons often choose foods with high energy content (because they are filling) over those with high nutritional value but low energy content like fruit and vegetables. These high-energy foods are also easy to over-consume and this may be a contributing factor to weight gain. People who are poorer generally have a diet poorer in quality but not lower in energy content, which contributes to a higher rate of obesity,
particularly in women.
Fresh fruit and vegetables cost more to purchase on a dollars per kilojoule basis, and also perish more quickly than processed foods. They take more time and skill to prepare and, after all of that effort, if they don’t get eaten for reasons of personal preference, they go to waste. For many it may not stack up financially to fill the fridge with fruit and vegetables. Under these circumstances, pre-prepared or fast food, which the family is sure to eat without complaint or waste, is all too convenient.
How we can increase veggie intake
The home and school environments are
two key influencers of children’s food preferences and intakes. Parents are the “food gatekeepers” and role models particularly for younger children. Where there is parental encouragement, role modelling and family rules, there is an increased fruit and vegetable intake.
Dietary behaviours and food choices
often start in childhood and continue through adolescence to adulthood. So encouraging fruit and vegetable intake in schools by mechanisms such as “fruit snack times” may be a good investment.
Policy approaches include subsidies on healthy foods. Other examples include levying a tax on foods of low nutritional value, improved food labelling, and stricter controls on the marketing of unhealthy foods. In Australia
debate continues around a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages, which could be used to subsidise healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables.
Research has found the more variety in fruit and vegetables available, the more we’ll consume. Those who meet the vegetable recommendation are more likely to report having at least three vegetable varieties at their evening meal. So increasing the number of different vegetables at the main meal is one simple strategy to increase intake.
This could be made a journey of discovery by adding one new vegetable to the household food supply each week. Buying “in season” fruit and vegetables and supplementing fresh varieties with frozen and canned options can bring down the total cost. Then it’s a matter of exploring simple, quick and tasty ways to prepare them so they become preferred foods for the family.
Genevieve James-Martin, Research Dietitian, ; CSIRO Gemma Williams, Research Dietitian, , and CSIRO Malcolm Riley, Nutrition Epidemiologist, CSIRO
This article is republished from
The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.