Written by Peter Jean. Published in Sydney Morning Herald on 17 July 2012.
It’s no wonder that Australia is the fifth-fattest nation on earth.
A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that many Australians are consuming too much food that is high in fat and sugar and not enough vegetables or wholegrain cereals.
The report, Australia’s Food and Nutrition 2012, says that Australians exceed the world average consumption of alcohol, sweeteners, milk and animal fats.
But Australian consumption of vegetables and cereal is below the world average.
Most adults didn’t eat enough fruit and adolescent girls failed to eat enough dairy foods or alternatives.
People in remote areas had difficulty accessing a variety of affordable healthy foods.
The report said that restaurant and takeaway meals was the highest weekly item of food expenditure for Australian households in all income groups.
In 2009-10, high-income households spent $389 on food and beverages each week, equal to 18 per cent of household expenditure.
Low income households spent $113, or 20 per cent of expenditure on food.
AIHW spokeswoman Lisa McGlynn said: “The cost of healthy foods is increasing which means that it is cheaper for some people to eat takeaway food than healthier foods.”
“It can cost less to feed a family on food from some of the fast-food outlets than it can to feed a family on some of the foods that would be considered to be appropriate and what experts recommend a family eat.’’
On average, “treats’’ or extra foods such as chips, biscuits, pastries, soft drinks and alcohol contributed 36 per cent of the energy intake for adults and 40 per cent for children.
One quarter of adults and one in 12 children aged between five and 12 years in Australia are obese.
“That’s about three million people aged over five which puts Australia fifth in the OECD countries for the proportion of the population who are obese,’’ Ms McGlynn said.