Most of us are probably vaguely aware that as adults, we should be eating two serves of fruit and at least five serves of veggies each day. But, as with a lot of things, the statistics tell us there’s quite a gap between what we should be doing and what we’re actually doing.
When it comes to fruit intake, about half of us do the right thing and meet dietary recommendations. That said, females are more likely to eat their two daily serves than males and there’s a definite pattern across age ranges i.e. as we reach adulthood our fruit intake falls before increasing again in old age…
However, our consumption of vegetables is diabolical. More than 90%… that’s right, MORE THAN 90% of Australian adults don’t eat as many veggies as they should. And again, the problem is worse for younger adults, particularly males…
This made me question why. Yes, there’s all sorts of issues around the availability of things like discretionary (or ‘sometimes’ food). But could part of the problem be simpler than that? Could it be we just don’t understand what a ‘serving’ actually is?
It’s instinctively easier to get your head around a ‘serving’ of fruit. After all, it’s often just a banana, an apple or a couple of mandarins. But, in my mind at least, a ‘serving’ of vegetables is a bit trickier.
How to Cop a Serve
While women should be having five serves of veggies a day, the Australian Dietary Guidelines actually recommend men aged 19 – 50 have six serves each day.
One serve of vegetables is about 75g, which equates to:
- Half a cup of cooked green or orange vegetables (e.g. broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin)
- Half a cup of cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils
- One cup of green leafy or raw salad vegetables
- Half a cup of sweet corn
- Half a medium potato or other starchy vegetables (e.g. sweet potato)
- One medium tomato
And no… chips, potato cakes and hash browns don’t count.
There are plenty of resources out there to help you eat more veggies, but the best starting point is the federal government’s ‘Eat for Health’ website – https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au. This is an excellent summary of all things nutrition in an Australian context. It outlines the Australian Dietary Guidelines and provides practical advice in an easy-to-understand format.
If you’re up for a challenge, Nutrition Australia is running a ‘Try for Five’ campaign to celebrate National Nutrition Week (16th – 22nd October). The idea is to challenge yourself – either as part of a team or individually – to eat at least five servings of vegetables each day for the week. Entry is $15 per person, with all money going to Nutrition Australia to continue the great work they do for nutrition promotion. To register, follow this link http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/national-nutrition-week
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Food and Nutrients, 2011 – 2012
Australian Government Department of Health, Eat for Health (https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au)