Diet

Fruit and vegetables

The foods and drinks we consume (our diet) play an important role in our overall health and wellbeing. A balanced diet, including sufficient fruit and vegetables, reduces a person’s risk of developing conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend, for females, to consume a minimum of 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables each day, depending on age, to ensure good nutrition and health.

Less than 1 in 10

Australian women are meeting fruit and vegetable intake guidelines

 According to 2017–18 data (ABS 2019a): 

  • over half (56%) of women aged 18 and over met the fruit intake guideline
  • 1 in 9 (11%) met the vegetable intake guideline
  • 1 in 13 (7.7%) met both (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Proportion of women aged 18 and who met fruit intake guideline, vegetable intake guideline and both guidelines, 2017–18

These 3 pie charts show that 56%25 of women met the fruit intake guideline, 11%25 of women met the vegetable intake guideline, and 7.7%25 met both the fruit and vegetable guidelines.

Chart: AIHW. Source: ABS 2019a (see Table S2 for footnotes).

The proportion of women meeting both the fruit and vegetable intake guidelines varied by age group. For example, women aged 65–74 were 5 times as likely to meet both guidelines as women aged 18–24 (12% and 2.4%, respectively) (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Proportion of women who met the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption, by age group, 2017–18

This column chart shows that the proportion of women meeting the fruit and vegetable intake guidelines generally increases for each age group after 18–24 until age 65–74, after which the proportion of women meeting the guidelines decreases. The proportion meeting the fruit intake guideline ranges from 48%25 of women aged 18–24 to 68%25 in the 65–74 age group. The proportion meeting the vegetable intake guideline ranges from 3.7%25 in the 85 and over age group to 16%25 in the 65–74 age group. The proportion meeting both intake guidelines ranges from 2.1%25 of women aged 85 and over to 12%25 of women aged 65–74.

Chart: AIHW. Source: ABS 2019a (see Table S2 for footnotes).

Whether women ate enough fruit and vegetables varied for some population groups. After adjusting for age (ABS 2019a): 

  • women living in Inner regional areas were 1.5 times as likely as women in Major cities to be eating enough vegetables (14% and 9.5%, respectively)
  • women living in the highest socioeconomic areas were 1.1 times as likely to be eating enough fruit as women in the lowest socioeconomic areas (58% and 52%, respectively)
  • women living in the highest socioeconomic areas were 1.4 times as likely to be eating enough vegetables as women in the lowest socioeconomic areas (12% and 8.3%, respectively).

Sugar sweetened and diet drinks

Discretionary foods like sugar sweetened and diet drinks are not an essential part of a healthy diet and a limited intake of these is recommended in the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Having too much of these drinks too often may lead to adverse health outcomes.

According to 2017–18 data (ABS 2019a):

  • around 1 in 5 (22%) women drank sugar sweetened drinks at least once a week and around 1 in 15 (6.4%) did so daily
  • around 1 in 10 (12%) women drank diet drinks at least once a week, and around 1 in 25 (4.2%) did so daily (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Proportion of women aged 18 and over who consumed sugar sweetened or diet drinks daily, weekly or never, 2017–18

Notes: 

  1. Sugar sweetened drinks includes soft drink, cordials, sports drinks or caffeinated energy drinks and may include soft drinks in ready to drink alcoholic beverages. Fruit juice, flavoured milk, ‘sugar free’ drinks or coffee/hot tea are excluded.
  2. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.

Chart: AIHW. Source: ABS 2019a (see Table S3 for footnotes).

The proportion of women who consumed sugar sweetened or diet drinks daily varied by age group. For example, women aged 18–24 were 2.3 times as likely as women aged 55–64 to consume sugar sweetened drinks daily (10% and 4.4%, respectively) (ABS 2019a).

Consumption also varied for some population groups. After adjusting for age (ABS 2019a):

  • women living in Outer regional and remote areas were almost twice as likely to drink sugar sweetened drinks daily as women in Major cities (10% and 5.9%, respectively)
  • women living in the lowest socioeconomic areas were 5 times as likely to drink sugar sweetened drinks daily as women in the highest socioeconomic areas (12% and 2.4%, respectively) (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Proportion of women aged 18 and over who consumed sugar sweetened drinks daily, by socioeconomic area, 2017–18

This column chart shows the proportion of women who drink sugar sweetened drinks daily increases with decreasing socioeconomic area with the highest proportion of women who drink sugar sweetened drinks daily in the lowest socioeconomic area (12%25) and the lowest proportion in the highest socioeconomic area (2.4%25).

Note: Sugar sweetened drinks includes soft drink, cordials, sports drinks or caffeinated energy drinks and may include soft drinks in ready to drink alcoholic beverages. Fruit juice, flavoured milk, ‘sugar free’ drinks or coffee/hot tea are excluded.
Chart: AIHW. Source: ABS 2019a (see Table S3 for footnotes).

For more information on diet as a risk factor for poor health, see Poor diet.

Dietary supplements

Dietary supplements are products defined as Complementary Medicines under the Therapeutic Goods Regulations 1990. They include products containing ingredients that are nutrients, such as multivitamin or fish oil products (ABS 2019b).

Based on 2017–18 data from the ABS NHS, around half (47%) of Australian women aged 18 and over were estimated to have taken dietary supplements in the past 2 weeks. Supplement use was more common in older age groups. Around 3 in 5 women aged 65 and over (57%) used supplements compared with around 1 in 3 women aged 18–24 (29%) (ABS 2019a).  

Dietary supplement use varied for some population groups. After adjusting for age (ABS 2019a):

  • women living in Major cities were 1.3 times as likely to be taking dietary supplements as women in Outer regional and remote areas (48% and 38%, respectively)
  • women living in the highest socioeconomic areas were 1.4 times are likely to be taking dietary supplements as women in the lowest socioeconomic areas (52% and 38%, respectively).