4364.0.55.012 - Australian Health Survey: Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011-12  
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As the role of dietary behaviour gains increasing recognition as having significant potential for both positive and negative influence on many of the most prevalent chronic diseases1, there has naturally been great demand from researchers and policymakers on how consumption patterns have changed over time. Prior to the 2011-13 Australian Health Survey, the last national representative survey was the 1995 National Nutrition Survey conducted jointly by ABS and the then Commonwealth Department of Health and Family Services.

Limited comparison between 1995 and 2011-12 was given in the 2011-12 first results. While many methodological aspects of the surveys were similar, a side-by-side analysis of food consumption would not provide a true comparison between the two time periods without accounting for changes in food coding and classification and the increased level of under-reporting in 2011-12. These are discussed in detail in the AHS Users’ Guide, available from the links below:

The analysis in this chapter provides a comparison between the two time periods using a common basic food database and presenting comparisons on a per-unit of energy basis. While these data transformations are also subject to limitations, the magnitude of any remaining bias is considered to be minimal and within the bounds of the sampling error (margins of error).

Food group classification

The food database used in this analysis was the AHS – ADG database developed by FSANZ for the NNPAS 2011-12, and a derivation from that database for the 1995 NNS (NNS–ADG database2). This enables comparisons of the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) ‘Five Food Groups’, comprising:
  • Grain (cereal) foods
  • Vegetables and legumes/beans
  • Fruit
  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or other alternatives
  • Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans
    The ADG makes recommendations about the amounts of these foods (plus small allowances for unsaturated spreads and oils) that populations should aim to consume, based on their gender and life stage. However, the current analysis does not make direct quantitative comparisons with the recommendations (as was done for the 2011-12 NNPAS). This is because the 1995 NNS has insufficient sample with a second day’s recall to do a usual intake analysis, and also, because the increase in under-reporting in 2011-12 would bias the comparison.

    Treatment of under-reporting

    As outlined in Under-reporting in Nutrition Surveys, under-reporting of food consumption was estimated to be considerably higher in 2011-12 than 1995. In order to account for this, all comparisons of serves in this publication are provided in serves per 10,000 kj (for context, the average energy consumption was 9,343 kJ in 1995 and 8,522 kJ in 2011-12).

    Treatment of discretionary foods

    The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines provide clear advice that Australians should limit their intake of discretionary foods which are characterised as nutrient poor and energy dense and are often high in saturated fat, salt or added sugars. With the aim of remaining consistent with the 2013 ADG, the primary focus of this analysis is to compare consumption of non-discretionary food groups. So, while the ADG database accounts for all five food group food ingredients irrespective of what the final dish was they ended up in, the overriding principle is that the headline comparisons of the five food groups should be based on the non-discretionary dishes. However, in recognition of the reality that discretionary foods contribute a significant proportion of the population’s overall dietary intake, further analysis is provided showing how much and what kind of discretionary foods were consumed overall and within each of the five food groups, and the final section compares total serves of discretionary foods.

    • Between 1995 and 2011, the broad dietary pattern of Australians has shifted with relatively more meat and relatively less vegetables being consumed in the latter period.
    • Average consumption of foods from the lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans group increased by 36% (on a per kilojoule basis) between 1995 and 2011-12 with half (51%) of the increase coming from greater poultry consumption.
    • Average consumption of the vegetables and legumes/beans group declined by 10% per kilojoule, with the decrease coming from teenage and adult age groups of both sexes.
    • While the average consumption of other food groups (grains, fruit, milk, yoghurt and cheese products) did not change significantly in aggregate, there were shifts in the food choices within those food groups, and changes within certain age group consumption between periods. For example, a 12% decline (per kJ of energy) in bread consumption by adults was offset by an increase in intakes of other grains (mainly rice) by adults (14%), with children having small increases in bread (4%) and larger increases in other grains (29%).
    • Similarly, an average 7% decline in milk consumption between 1995 and 2011-12 was balanced by greater intakes of cheese and yoghurt. While for fruit, the shift has been to a greater share coming from fresh fruit (up from 56% in 1995 to 63% in 2011-12), with juice contributing proportionally less to serves of fruit (36% down to 27%).
    • There has also been a decrease in the overall proportion of dietary energy from discretionary foods, from 38% in 1995 to 35% in 2011-12. This is associated with a relative decrease in average consumption of serves of discretionary foods over the period.

    This graph shows the mean serves per 10,000 kilojoules of major groups and discretionary foods consumed by Australians aged 2 years and over. Data was based on Day 1 of 24 hour dietary recall for 1995 NNS and 2011-12 NNPAS.
    (a) From non-discretionary sources, Based on Day 1. See Glossary for definition.
    Sources: National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, 2011-12 and National Nutrition Survey, 1995