About a third of all Australians are confused about what constitutes “healthy eating” in their diets. A Medibank-commissioned survey found that three out of 10 respondents considered dietary information confusing to some degree.
Perhaps the confusion stems from the amount of conflicting information that is fed to the population in a tabloid style way designed to decry one “diet” while advocating another.
A total of 41 per cent of people surveyed agreed they should change the way they eat and acknowledged they needed to fix things, but 19 per cent said they didn’t know what to do in order to create a healthy eating regime.
Associate Professor in Nutrition at Deakin University Tim Crowe agrees that the amount of conflicting nutritional information is feeding (pun intended) the confusion.
“Nutrition is one of the few fields you can be considered an expert on just by talking about it,” he said. “In nutrition you can be an expert just because you have lost weight and you have had an approach that works for you. That resonates with some people. But the information can be very dubious.”
He went on to say that, even though new dietary fads make their way into our lives constantly, the basics of nutrition haven’t changed in decades. A diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in sugar and processed food would keep you relatively healthy.
“Dietary fads and trends come and go. Paleo is what we talk about at the moment but it won’t be around in a few years,” Dr Crowe said.
Paleo is big at the moment, as is “no-sugar”, whilst those advocating rich fats run contrary to the Heart Foundation’s recommendations to balance these with “low-cholesterol” ones.
The Medibank Health Check survey quizzed a random sample of 1500 people and gathered their views and opinions on topics including grocery prices, knowledge of healthy eating habits and meal routines.
Price, nutritional value and mood were the leading drivers of food choices, according to Medibank senior medical adviser Ian Boyd.
“Although 76 per cent of people believe a healthy lifestyle is about making the right food choices, only half felt that their diet was due to factors within their control,” he said.
“Clearly, the myriad of influences on what people eat means the path to better health is more difficult than it could be.”
Although almost half the respondents said they would buy nutritional foods before considering price, less than a third said they were prepared to pay more for organic or responsibly produced food.