Australians have long been encouraged to eat green for a healthy lifestyle, however a new survey hopes to examine the environmental impact of the nation’s diet.
CSIRO will use data from the country’s largest diet survey, the Healthy Diet Score, to look at the role food consumption contributes to our environmental footprint, as well as providing people with a score indicating the nutritional quality of their eating habits.
Improving the national diet can achieve both health benefits and environmental benefits, such as minimising harmful greenhouse gases via reducing processing, packaging and transport requirements.
CSIRO research has found that reducing overconsumption of kilojoules and eating whole foods at the levels recommended in the National Dietary Guidelines could cut the greenhouse gas contribution of the average diet by 25 per cent.
People across Australia are being asked to participate in the online survey again this year. Last year more than 70,000 people took part in the Healthy Diet Score, providing researchers with a detailed picture of the country’s eating habits.
The survey evaluates diet based on food variety, frequency and quantity of the essential food groups, as well as other attributes to calculate greenhouse gas emissions related to food consumption.
This is the first year that the Healthy Diet Score will use survey data to measure the broader environmental impact of poor eating and the findings will be released later this year.
The 2016 edition of the Healthy Diet Score also tracks special diets for the first time, such as vegetarian and gluten free, offering tailored advice for people who struggle to meet the Dietary Guidelines.
Professor Manny Noakes, CSIRO Research Director for Nutrition and Health and the co-author of the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet, said the impact of poor eating habits reaches further than just an individual’s waistline.
"Obesity and poor nutrition habits negatively affects the broader community," Professor Noakes said.
"This year’s Healthy Diet Score will help us better qualify the environmental footprint from individuals eating habits.
"The new survey will provide researchers with an updated snapshot based on current eating habits and revised environmental modelling data."
In addition to overeating kilojoules, the CSIRO estimates that junk food is one of the highest contributors to food related greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for up to 27 per cent of the 14.5 kilograms of diet-related greenhouse gas emissions produced by the average Australian each day*.
Last year the country’s diet quality was given a rating of 61/100 using the scientifically validated survey which assesses people’s diet quality against the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Australia’s underwhelming performance in last year’s Healthy Diet Score was driven by the country’s addiction to junk food.
The 2015 survey found that junk food intake was three-times higher than the recommended daily limit.
The CSIRO Healthy Diet Score is a free 10-minute online assessment which evaluates diet quality and identifies areas of improvement and gives your diet a score out of 100.
“The online assessment provides Australians with a simple and trusted way of self-assessing the quality of their diet and how they compare to others of the same age, gender, generation, profession, as well as people from the same state and across the country," Professor Noakes said.
"The assessment will also allow us to better quantify the impact of how much and what we eat on our environment.
"We would encourage people to take the test regularly to ensure they are improving their eating behaviour and overall health and wellbeing.”
For more information or to take the free Healthy Diet Score please visit www.csirodietscore.com .
* Hendrie GA, Ridoutt BG, Wiedmann TO, Noakes M. Greenhouse gas emissions and the Australian diet - comparing dietary recommendations with average intakes . Nutrients. 2014 Jan 8;6(1):289-303. doi: 10.3390/nu6010289.
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