New report reveals a decline in healthy eating during pandemic

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A new report from the Fruit and Vegetable Consortium, partnered by Medibank, has found that the eating behaviours of Australians worsened during the pandemic.

The report - Shifting the dial on vegetable consumption – rebuilding healthy families in a COVID-19 affected and disrupted Australia - describes how the pandemic contributed to Australians eating more takeaway and home-delivered meals, led to a greater dependence on snacks, and lower consumption of vegetables.

Fruit and Vegetable Consortium Chair Lucinda Hancock said, “Australians know that eating an extra serve of vegetables daily is a simple way to improve their health, but the pandemic and lockdowns reinforced barriers linked to affordability, concerns over food waste and the lack of time and inspiration needed to prepare good meals.

“Governments have a range of good strategies to improve preventative health, reduce obesity, lift health literacy and reduce food waste. A national behaviour change campaign can empower consumers with the information they need to make the right choices for themselves.

“As well as improving health outcomes, increased vegetable consumption will have the added benefit of supporting growers, regional communities and retailers.”

Medibank chief medical officer, Dr Linda Swan, said the report findings were concerning but provided realistic recommendations to improve health outcomes.

“While it sounds simple to have an extra serve of fruit and vegetables a day, in reality it is a much more complex issue; we know that food literacy, access and affordability play a huge role in the eating habits of Australians,” said Dr Swan.

“At Medibank, we are working on improving food literacy through our health and wellbeing program, Live Better. We also have a number of preventative health programs for members with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis.

“Approximately $38 billion is spent each year on care for people with chronic disease and almost half of all Australian adults have preventable health conditions. Being proactive about chronic disease management and prevention is needed to deliver better health outcomes, while also delivering long-term sustainable benefits for the health system.

“A key element to improving health and wellbeing is eating well and I hope the findings of this report encourage all Australians to review their diet and take nutrition seriously.”

According to the report's findings, 91 per cent of Australians are not eating the recommended five serves of vegetables each day, 17 per cent are eating fewer vegetables compared to pre-pandemic consumption, 81 per cent agree that eating one more serve of vegetables a day is a simple way to improve their long-term health, and 72 per cent of consumers say affordability is impacting their consumption of vegetables.