Poor nutrition fuelling obesity
AUSTRALIANS are putting on weight faster than people in any other country, but many people are unaware of the effects of food and drink on their health, says dietitian Ana Gowrea from the South Metropolitan Population Health Unit.
“Health-related problems due to poor diet are on the rise,” she said. “In the last 30 years, obesity has doubled worldwide.
“In Australia, two out of three adults are overweight or obese and one in four of our kids are above the recommended weight for good health.”
Mrs Gowrea said too many people were consuming foods high in energy, added or refined sugar, saturated fat and salt and not eating enough nutritious whole foods such as vegetables, fruit and dairy that are essential for optimal health.
“We do know that up to 30 per cent of our diet now is from dis- cretionary foods – ones that have low nutrient value, but are high in fat, salt and sugar,” she said.
“Added sugar is a cause for concern. It is usually added to processed foods and they are empty calories, so you don’t get any other vitamins and minerals from them apart from the kilojoules or excess energy.”
Mrs Gowrea said the public was bombarded with a lot of misinformation about food, leading to poor nutritional choices.
People were also making food choices out of convenience and habit, instead of thinking about their health.
“People go, ‘I need a drink’ so they go for a soft drink, but what you really need is to hydrate and grab water instead.
“We do a lot to try and get people to pause, stop and think, ‘What am I putting into my body?’
Mrs Gowrea oversees community-based food programs through the South Metropolitan Population Health Unit (SMPHU) that aim to educate the community about better nutrition.
These include supporting local sporting clubs and recreational venues to “green up” their menus, working with the City of Armadale to help local primary schools include nutrition education in the school curriculum and helping people to develop skills and confidence to cook healthy meals on a budget.
“It (views towards healthier eating) is starting to swing, because you get to the point where people are starting to have the symptoms of bad health – they’re not as mobile because they’re overweight or obese, or they have unmanaged Type 2 diabetes and just feel unwell.
“Unfortunately, it sometimes gets to that point for them to do something. But on the flipside, if they’re a mum and dad who have that, then they think, ‘I really need to do something with our kids now’.”