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Nearly all Australian children don’t eat enough vegetables, according to a new report.

Teenagers are also consuming way too much discretionary foods such as sweets and potato chips, while toddlers are the only age group getting enough dairy.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report, Nutrition across the life stages, examines diets across different age groups.

The report found the quality of Aussie diets were consistently poor across all age groups, with people not eating enough from the five food groups (vegetables, fruit, grains, lean meat and alternatives, and dairy products and alternatives).

“For example, very few of us eat enough vegetables. This is at its worst among children aged 2–18, 99% of whom do not eat enough vegetables,” AIHW spokesperson Claire Sparke said.

When examining the average daily intake of foods for different age groups, only children aged 2–8 meet the fruit recommendations.

For grains, only males aged 4–11, females aged 9–11 and females aged 71 and over meet the recommendations.

Toddlers aged 2–3 are the only group to meet the dairy recommendations.

“We are also consuming too much added sugars, saturated fat and sodium (salt), which is probably because about one-third of Australians’ energy intake comes from discretionary food,” Ms Sparke said.

 

We’re eating too much nutrient poor foods

Discretionary foods are foods and drinks that are not necessary to provide required nutrients. They include items such as cakes, biscuits, confectionery, pastries, potato chips, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks.

“The level of discretionary foods consumed is even higher for teenagers, making up more than 40% of their daily energy intake,” Ms Sparke said.

For children, cakes, muffins, sweet biscuits, chips and ice cream are some of the leading contributors to their intake of discretionary food.

For adults aged 51–70, alcoholic drinks account for more than one-fifth of discretionary food intake.

Despite these concerning findings, the report uncovered Aussies were generally getting enough of the required nutrients.

However iron and calcium intakes for females in some age groups need improvement.

“Since 1995, we’ve also seen a general decrease in the contribution of added sugars and fat to our energy intake, as well as a fall in how much discretionary food we’re eating,’ Ms Sparke said.

The report also showed Australians living in major cities have healthier diets and lower levels of physical inactivity and overweight and obesity than those living in more remote areas.

This was also the case for people in higher socioeconomic areas compared to those living in lower socioeconomic areas.

For more information on the Australian Dietary Guidelines, visit www.eatforhealth.gov.au

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