The national body representing the Australian vegetable industry has called for a shift in the nation’s mindset about what constitutes healthy eating, following a report highlighting an international trend towards vegetable-based daily diets.
The report from the Project Harvest tracking study, commissioned by Horticulture Innovation Australia, has examined the release of dietary guidelines by the Health Council of the Netherlands, which recommend reducing meat consumption to no more than 500g weekly and encouraging vegetable intake.
“With other countries reframing their idea of what constitutes healthy eating, this is a great opportunity for Australians to re-think their own eating habits and introduce more vegetables into their diets,” said AUSVEG spokesperson Shaun Lindhe.
“When fewer than one in ten Australians actually consume the five or more daily serves of vegetables recommended by the Australian dietary guidelines, a shift in thinking that emphasises the value of a vegetable-rich diet could make a significant difference to the health and wellbeing of everyday Australians.”
Previous research from the Project Harvest study has shown that Australians routinely over-estimate the healthiness of their diets, with consumers who believe they “definitely” eat enough vegetables each day (around a third of the population) only eating an average of 3.4 serves of vegetables each day – significantly fewer than the 5 or more recommended for women and 5-6 or more recommended for men.
Consumption rates drop even lower for those who believe they sometimes eat enough vegetables, are unsure whether they eat enough vegetables, or believe they don’t eat enough vegetables each day.
“The disconnect between consumers’ perceptions about their diets and the actual healthiness of those diets may be due to a lack of understanding about what a healthy diet looks like,” said Mr Lindhe.
“For example, the traditional Australian dinner is still seen as meat and three veg – but that leaves at least two serves of vegetables that need to be eaten throughout the rest of the day to reach the recommended daily servings.”
“By moving away from the idea of meat as the foundation of a meal and looking for vegetable-based proteins instead, and adopting healthier snacks like carrot or celery sticks during the day, Australians can increase their vegetable consumption and make a huge contribution to their health and wellbeing.”