Good food, bad food: what’s the difference?

Hamburger2Health experts fear community confusion is driving Queensland’s growing obesity crisis.

The grim warning comes as a new survey found only four per cent of people could tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy food.

“In a recent survey, people were asked to identify foods as healthy and unhealthy. Worryingly only four per cent of people surveyed passed this simple test,” NAQ Nutrition Senior Nutritionist Aloysa Hourigan said.

“The most common ‘pitfall’ was people incorrectly identifying unhealthy foods like high-sugar breakfast cereals, Caesar salads and frozen yoghurts. These foods are often marketed as healthy but actually contain high amounts of sugar, fat and salt.

“By not knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods, Queenslanders are placing themselves at a higher risk of developing potentially deadly chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

“Basically, people are eating too much, too often and snacking too regularly on junk food.

“A single chocolate bar a day might not sound like much but over a year it could lead to weight gain of around 12 kilograms per year. Simply saying no could help people shed up to 12 kilograms a year.”

Ms Hourigan said it was clear many people were overindulging on junk food.

“There was widespread unawareness about how often we should be eating ‘extras’ foods like chocolate bars and potato chips,” Ms Hourigan said.

“The survey found almost 80 per cent of people were eating ‘extras’ foods up to twice a day. This exceeds the Australian Dietary Guidelines which suggest most Australians should eat very little or none of these foods as part of a healthy diet.

“With this amount of confusion it is probably not surprising recent research found Queensland has the highest rate of obesity in Australia.

“Small changes can make a big difference. Simply saying no to extras can make a positive difference to your weight over time.

“The obesity crisis is a significant health issue confronting Queensland and, unfortunately, this survey gives Queenslanders an ‘F’ for nutritional knowledge.”

The survey found:

·         78 per cent of people ate high sugar, high fat foods (cakes, chips, biscuits, lollies and chocolates) one to two times a day

·         20 per cent ate high sugar, high fat foods three or more times a day

·         On average, people ate high sugar, high fat foods 10 times a week

·         Almost 20 per cent consumed sugary drinks every day.

Ms Hourigan said there was a range of ways people could take charge of their own health including using food diaries to keep track of what they are actually eating.

“Research shows recording how much you consume is one way to help reduce consumption,” she said.

“There are plenty of free apps that can help people record what they eat or alternatively the old-fashioned way of using a pen and paper can be just as effective.

“Why not make it easier for yourself at home by doing a basic pantry and fridge audit and getting rid of the junk food and stocking up on lots of vegetables?”

Diabetes Queensland, the Heart Foundation and NAQ Nutrition are encouraging Queenslanders to eat healthier, smaller portions during the festive season. The Queensland partnership is also supported by the Australian Government’s new obesity prevention initiative, Shape Up Australia and funded by the Queensland Government.

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