While we abstain the word “diet” here at Women’s Health, as far as daily eating goes, we like to keep things balanced. But while most people can attest to holding the same virtue when it comes to the food they consume on a daily basis, just what constitutes a balanced diet remains to be seen. For some it means eating plant-based, with plates heaped full of vegetables, while for others it’s indulging in a square of chocolate each evening. It might be hard to agree on what constitutes balance, given that it’s rather subjective depending on what you’re used to, but when it comes to junk food most of us can stand united with collective images of processed foods, candy, and the kind of sugar sweets you’d have once clambered for in your Easter Show bag.
According to a new study from the CSIRO though, Australians are actually eating junk food on the daily, it’s just not what you might expect. As it turns out, low nutrient, high kilojoule food continues to be the top choice for Aussies and taking the cake are things like alcohol, sugary soft drinks, cakes and biscuits, with savoury pastries being the most popular. Ah, the humble Aussie pastry – who knew it would come to betray us.
The study found that 80 per cent of Aussies overindulge in junk foods daily. Thanks to the CSIRO’s new Junk Food Analyser, now we can see just what we’ve been putting into our body daily. The tool was designed to help individuals understand their diets and improve them, as the analyser provides a greater understanding of discretionary food intake. What that means is it basically shows you just what you’re consuming, with interactive tools to help with reducing kilojoules and strategies to combat binges, particularly on junk food.
Another thing the Junk Food Analyser does is that it gives you a better understanding of serving size, particularly when it comes to junk food. When it comes to our weaknesses, the findings reveal that alcohol is our kryptonite, making up 20 per cent of our junk food intake.
According to Dr Chelsea Mauch, post-doctoral researcher at the CSIRO, this can be due to our social habits. In an interview with Body and Soul, Dr Mauch explained: “Much like other discretionary foods and drinks, alcohol is consumed for many different reasons and may be tied to social occasions, events and social norms.”
She added, “Understanding what constitutes a ‘serve’ of alcohol as it relates to discretionary choices can also be challenging, and generally beverages (alcohol and sugar sweetened beverages) are easy to over consume. This may make it difficult for Australians to keep their intake in check.”
But before you go into a panic over the chocolate consumed over Easter, relax. We can still eat discretionary foods, again the key word is just balance. As Dr Mauch suggests, “Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to have these foods and drinks that you enjoy in small amounts or occasionally. Choose a strategy that will work for you and your lifestyle, but also be flexible.”
She adds: “If you are having a lot of these foods, it might take time to slowly reduce them. Things won’t always go to plan and you may not always stick to these changes. However, even a number of small changes made over time can have a positive impact on your health.”
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