Australian Health Today - - Contents -

new mi­grants to Aus­tralia gen­er­ally eat health­ier di­ets than the lo­cals but many are dragged into bad habits by Aus­tralia’s fast food cul­ture, new re­search has found.

The study found new mi­grants were much more likely to eat to­gether as a fam­ily than es­tab­lished Aus­tralians and nearly half avoid fast food en­tirely.

The study found that 67 per cent of new ar­rivals sur­veyed ate veg­eta­bles ev­ery day and those who ate tra­di­tional meals were more likely to eat fresh veg­eta­bles ev­ery day. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Health and Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil (NHMRC) less than 10 per cent of Aus­tralians eat the rec­om­mended serves of fruit and veg­eta­bles each day.

It found 83 per cent of new mi­grants shared a meal with their fam­ily more than three days a week while just 66 per cent of Aus­tralians on av­er­age reg­u­larly ate as a fam­ily.

The study found eight out of ten ate break­fast ev­ery day. This com­pares with other stud­ies that have found less than half of Aus­tralians eat break­fast ev­ery day.

Ti­tled: ‘What’s for Din­ner? An ex­plo­ration of changes in eat­ing habits and di­etary ac­cul­tur­a­tion among new mi­grant to Aus­tralia’, the sur­vey aimed to find out whether new mi­grants change their diet and eat­ing habits af­ter ar­riv­ing in Aus­tralia.

Re­cent mi­grant Mirela Djekanovic said main­tain­ing a healthy diet for her­self and her fam­ily was a pri­or­ity.

“Eat­ing healthy food is im­por­tant to me. It makes you feel bet­ter and ob­vi­ously it is bet­ter for your health,” she said.

“I have a 19-month-old daugh­ter and it is im­por­tant to me that she learns healthy eat­ing habits early. As a fam­ily we eat lots of fruit and veg­eta­bles ev­ery day and luck­ily my daugh­ter loves broc­coli and car­rots,” said Mirela, who mi­grated from Bos­nia two years ago.

New mi­grants suc­cumb­ing to Aussie

fast food cul­ture

Con­ducted by mi­grant and refugee set­tle­ment agency AMES Aus­tralia, the study found more than half (57 per cent) con­sumed home cooked meals ev­ery day and more than a third (35 per cent) rarely or never con­sumed soft drinks.

It found 47 per cent of re­spon­dents never ate from one of the five top fast food chains – com­pared with 40 per cent of lo­cals*, while 41 per cent had eaten from th­ese food chains one or more times per week.

It also asked about ex­er­cise lev­els, health pro­files and per­cep­tions about the cost of food and where mi­grants shopped for food.

Forty-six per cent of re­spon­dents said they walked ev­ery day for ex­er­cise, the sur­vey found.

Forty per cent of re­spon­dents stayed the same weight, while 38 per cent had put on weight and 84 per cent of re­spon­dents said that their health was good to ex­cel­lent.

The sur­vey found 63 per cent of re­spon­dents pur­chased their fruit and veg­eta­bles from the su­per­mar­ket; 51 per cent thought the cost of food was ex­pen­sive in Aus­tralia while 43 per cent felt it was about right.

Sev­enty-nine per cent of re­spon­dents read food la­bels when buy­ing pack­aged food.

Lead re­searcher Dr Lisa Thom­son said the first two to three years af­ter set­tle­ment were crit­i­cal for new ar­rivals to main­tain their tra­di­tional food habits.

“New mi­grants need to learn how to source foods in Aus­tralia but they are also in­flu­enced by lo­cal eat­ing habits. This study has shown that new mi­grants face sim­i­lar chal­lenges to the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion in re­la­tion to food choices such as main­tain­ing a healthy body weight and en­sur­ing they get suf­fi­cient ex­er­cise,” she said.

“This study shows that new mi­grants en­gage in two pro­tec­tive fac­tors for health and well­be­ing, main­tain­ing their tra­di­tional diet and eat­ing as a fam­ily. How­ever, it is con­cern­ing that there are sig­nif­i­cant num­bers that con­sume soft drinks and eat at one of the five ma­jor fast food restau­rants and least once a week.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing, mi­grants who come to Aus­tralia are health­ier than the na­tive pop­u­la­tion. The rel­a­tive high cost of fresh food when com­pared with pro­cessed food, the limited avail­abil­ity of fresh food in some re­gions can have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact upon the types of food choices new mi­grants peo­ple make.

“This means that the ‘healthy im­mi­grant’ ef­fect may only last for a short time par­tic­u­larly if they re­place tra­di­tional foods with en­ergy dense west­ern­style food and move to more seden­tary life­styles.

“Healthy eat­ing and ex­er­cise are good for dis­ease pre­ven­tion and are essen­tial for health and well­be­ing. AMES Aus­tralia is com­mit­ted to help­ing new mi­grants set­tle in Aus­tralia. Learn­ing what type of foods are avail­able, where they can pur­chase fa­mil­iar or tra­di­tional foods and how they can pre­pare food in a sim­i­lar way to their home coun­try is im­por­tant for new ar­rivals,” Dr Thom­son said.

*En­hanced Me­dia Met­rics Aus­tralia re­port

“I have a 19-month-old daugh­ter and it is im­por­tant to me that she learns healthy eat­ing habits early”

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