February 14, 2019

Newspapers this week featured summaries of a report by the Dietitian’s Association of Australia (DAA) examining the cost of poor nutrition to Australia’s health. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, takes notice.

Titled Nourish Not Neglect: Putting health on our nation’s table, the report has admirable ambitions. It highlights that less than one percent of the population eats according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines, and that 67% of adults are overweight or obese. Of course, following the dietary guidelines would be a good start for those currently eating poorly, but many would not achieve the results they’re after even if they did follow the guidelines.

The major problem with the Australian Dietary Guidelines is that they provide guidance for the population in general. Those wanting specific results, such as weight loss, exercise performance, better sleep and so on, need an individualised approach to develop a dietary pattern targeted to their goals. The “one-size-fits-all” nature of population guidelines, while a good start, is often insufficient for individuals.

The DAA are calling for a review of the National Nutrition Policy, which was last reviewed back in 1992. In 27 years, research and understanding of nutrition has come a long way yet the National Nutrition Policy has not kept up.

According to the report: “A new National Nutrition Policy would address the rising prevalence and healthcare costs of diet-related chronic disease, and help improve food and nutrition security, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, the nutritional needs of vulnerable Australians, sustainability, social equity and productivity.”

The proposed new National Nutrition Policy would address a number of issues:

  • The rising prevalence and health care costs of diet-related chronic disease.
  • Poor nutrition in hospitals, and especially in aged care facilities, where just $6 per day is spent on food for each aged care resident. Those who are ill, frail or suffering various diseases, such as is common in aged care, need nutrient dense foods to help maintain – or indeed improve – their strength and health. Some of the food served to these people is both unappetising and of low quality.
  • Junk food intake, which currently accounts for more than a third of our daily energy intake and 58% of our budget.
  • Improve food and nutrition security.
  • Improve the nutritional needs of vulnerable Australians, including Aboriginals and Torres Strait islanders.
  • Sustainability, social equity and productivity.

The DAA acknowledge a number of government initiatives aimed at educating and influencing consumers, but claim that each is happening in isolation. A coordinated approach is needed that includes a public education campaign, greater access to nutrition advice, and restricting or removing junk food advertising.

Lofty ideals, perhaps? Some initiatives have been problematic. Others have gone largely unnoticed by the population, and this is a major issue. There may be a wealth of information available, but if you don’t know it’s there, it’s unlikely that you’ll do a Google search to even try to find it.

Nobody wants to be unhealthy, just as most people don’t wish to be overweight. Our eating habits are largely established in childhood, and habits being habits, they’re hard to break even if we know they’re not serving us.

Your current habits and eating patterns have been perfect for creating your current weight and health. If you’re happy with these results, continue what you’re doing. If you’re not happy, change is needed. Instead of waiting for government policy, it’s possible to lead the way and make your own change.

  • Eat whole foods.
  • Buy ingredients, not foods with ingredients. If you have to read a label, it’s probably best if you leave it on the shelf.
  • If your great grandmother would not have recognised the food, question whether you should eat it.
  • Ensure your plate contains a load of vegetables – at each meal.

Change is great but it can be hard to break habits, and this is where specialised coaching and support can make all the difference to your results. Give your nearest Healthy Inspirations centre a call.