Australians falling short on veggie intake

June 30, 2024 BY

The available data suggests vegetable consumption is lowest in males aged 18-24, with 97 per cent consuming less than their daily recommended serving. This figure decreases to about 89 per cent for males aged 75 and over. Photo: SUPPLIED

Less than 7 per cent of Australians are getting their five daily recommended servings of vegetables, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The data, released earlier this month, found vegetable consumption was lowest in men, with only 3 per cent getting their daily recommended dose, compared to 10 per cent of women.

Australia’s Dietary Guidelines recommend adults consume five servings of vegetables or legumes (such as beans or lentils) each day, helping to lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

The Heart Foundation’s senior dietician Jemma O’Hanlon said rising grocery prices, combined with a lack of food literacy had led to a worrying tend of Australians eating poorly.

In a bid to improve the nation’s vegetable consumption habits, the not-for-profit is urging community members to instead consider adding canned or frozen vegetables to their meals.

“Most Australians look at the price of fresh produce and think, ‘Oh, I can’t afford that’, particularly if something is out of season,” Ms O’Hanlon said.

“But what the Heart Foundation wants them to know is that they can and should then look at the canned or frozen version of those vegetables to save money but continue eating healthy.”

Most Australians are not aware that canned and frozen vegetables are nutritionally equal to their fresh counterparts, often cheaper to purchase, and frequently, more convenient, Ms O’Hanlon said.

To assist community members to cook healthy meals through the cooler months, the Heart Foundation has launched a free winter recipe cookbook, featuring 10 easy-to-make family favourites that champion vegetables.

Ms O’Hanlon said the vegetables included in each of the meals could be easily sourced from the canned or frozen sections of the supermarket.

“Winter is the perfect time to consider canned or frozen vegetables because people are often cooking stews or casseroles where the texture of vegetables is more tender than crisp,” she said.

She also encouraged the community to increase their consumption of legumes, an often overlooked “health hero” that is low cost and of high nutritional value.

“If you want a hearty winter meal that ticks your nutritional goals, and to do so on a budget, then you absolutely must include lentils, beans and chickpeas in your diet.

“Australians have told us previously that they lack the confidence in using legumes and so our winter recipe cookbook offers some easy suggestions.

“My personal favourite for people who are starting out is to include a tin of lentils in your Bolognese sauce. It not only adds texture and nutrition but stretches the sauce even further to create more servings for your family.”

Ms O’Hanlon also recommended adding beans to your taco mix, baby corn spears and tinned carrots to stir-frys, and tinned vegetables, lentils, chickpeas or beans to soups.

For more ideas for incorporating canned or frozen vegetables and legumes into meals, or to access the Heart Foundation’s winter recipe cookbook, head to heartfoundation.org.au