4364.0.55.012 - Australian Health Survey: Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines, 2011-12  
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The 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG) provide evidence-based guidance for all Australians on the amounts and types of foods and dietary patterns required for optimal health and wellbeing.1 Whilst the ADG consist of five Guidelines (see Appendix 1), the major focus of this publication was to analyse consumption of foods groups within Guideline 2, these are referred to as the ‘Five Food Groups’ and comprise:

  • Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties
  • Vegetables and legumes/beans
  • Fruit
  • Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or other alternatives, mostly reduced fat
  • Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans
    In addition to the recommendations of servings from the Five Food Groups, the ADG recommend drinking plenty of water and recommend small allowances for unsaturated spreads and oils.

    This publication uses the 2011-12 NNPAS to present data showing the population’s usual consumption from each of the food groups and make comparisons with the recommended servings in the ADG for each age and sex group. A further objective is to break down the Five Food Groups into sub-groups to examine the relative contribution of those groups and also look at the form in which the foods were consumed.


    Because many foods recorded within the 2011-12 NNPAS were mixed foods (e.g. a lasagne may contain meat, vegetables, cereal and dairy foods), it was necessary to create a new database specifying the amounts of each of the Five Food Groups for each of the approximately 5,700 unique foods in the NNPAS. Development of the ADG database was undertaken by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) who designed the protocol and classification for assigning proportions foods to food groups. This database complements the underlying nutrient database (known as AUSNUT 2011-13) and may be accessed along with the detailed explanatory notes from the FSANZ website. 2

    Treatment of discretionary foods

    The ADG (Guideline 3 in particular) provides 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.1 Therefore, in order to be consistent with the Guidelines only foods that were classified as non-discretionary 3 were included when reporting against the ADG recommendations (regardless of whether those discretionary foods have ingredients that would otherwise be considered as belonging to the Five Food Groups). However, the ADG database distributed all AUSNUT foods into the Five Food Groups irrespective of whether the food was classified as non-discretionary or discretionary, and this information is used for some supplementary analysis estimating of how much extra serves were consumed if the Five Food Group components within discretionary food was counted.

    Usual Intakes

    Estimates of the proportions of the population meeting/not meeting the minimum recommended number of serves were based on ‘usual intakes’, which are modelled estimates of the amounts usually consumed by population groups. Usual intakes were modelled from two non-consecutive 24 hour dietary recalls collected from 2011-12 NNPAS. These estimates differ from the actual proportions meeting/not meeting based on a single day’s intake, because on any day, a respondent may have more or less than their usual amount. Therefore, analysis of usual intakes is the preferred method of estimating the proportion of the population who in the long-run would consume above or below a target amount. All estimates of the distribution of consumption (including proportions of people who were above or below recommended amount) were based usual intakes. However, where overall averages consumption is presented or where food groups are broken down by contribution of sub-groups and where the amount of discretionary component is analysed, means (averages) based on a single day’s consumption were used. For more information, see Australian Health Survey: Usual Nutrient Intakes, 2011 12, cat. no. 4364.0.55.008.


    Analysis of the 2011-12 NNPAS suggests that, like other nutrition surveys, the results are affected (biased) by some under-reporting of food intake by participants in the survey. Therefore, estimates of the amounts of food groups consumed in this publication may be an underestimate of the true amounts consumed. See the AHS Users’ Guide for more information on under-reporting.