Cause for concern: Australian diets lack vegetables and dairy

Australian Health Survey key findings

New data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics from the Australian Health Survey (AHS)1 has revealed that vegetables and dairy are the top two food groups lacking in Australians’ diets with more than 96% not eating enough vegetables and legumes, and 90% not having enough milk, cheese and yoghurt for optimal health.

These concerning statistics have prompted Dairy Australia and AUSVEG to unite to urge Australians to double their intake of vegetables and add an extra a serve of dairy to their diet.

Women aged over 50 years are most likely to be putting their health at risk by not eating enough dairy, with only 1 in 1000 meeting the recommended 4 serves. Good nutrition is vital to the healthy development of children, however less than 1% of children are getting enough vegetables.

Emma Glassenbury, Accredited Practicing Dietitian at Dairy Australia said, “We are also deeply concerned about the development of Australian children and adolescents, the AHS data shows that less than 10% of children aged 9-11 years and less than 2% of adolescents are meeting the recommended dairy serves.”

Lucinda Hancock, Accredited Nutritionist at Nutrition Australia said, “Australians are not meeting the recommended serves across all five healthy food groups. We know that consumers are overloaded with confusing information about nutrition, but the solution is simple, we need to be eating less ‘junk food’ and more from the five food groups – particularly vegetables, legumes, milk, yoghurt and cheese.

“Dairy and vegetables are both very versatile types of foods. They can be enjoyed in many different ways no matter what your taste preferences.”

The AHS is the largest and most comprehensive health survey in Australia. For the first time it compares food consumption against the Australian Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines contain recommendations directly linked with reducing the risk of common and serious health conditions.

Shaun Lindhe, AUSVEG spokesperson said, “Only 4% of the population is getting enough vegetables. We want to urge parents to reconsider their children’s vegetable intake, with 99% of children aged 2-18 years not meeting the recommended serves. The AHS has found that on average Australians are only eating 2.7 serves of vegetables or legumes a day, however the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends an adult eats between five to six serves each day.

“Many people don’t know the size or number of serves they should be consuming. One serve of vegetables is equivalent to half a cup of cooked vegetables, half a medium potato, or one cup of salad vegetables.”

Ms Glassenbury says, “Most people know that adequate consumption of milk, cheese and yoghurt is critical to bone health, but the Australian Dietary Guidelines also link dairy foods to reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension and type 2 diabetes.

“Despite the mounting evidence demonstrating the health benefits of dairy, nine out of ten of Australians are not consuming enough to meet the Australian Dietary Guidelines.”

Only 1 in 200 girls aged 14-18 years are meeting their serve recommendations. Teenage girls should be consuming 3.5 serves of dairy a day, for example a cup of milk, 3/4 cups of yoghurt, 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese and one slice of hard cheese,”

The Australian Dietary Guidelines use scientific evidence to recommend the type and quantity of food needed for health and wellbeing, and to reduce the risk of diet-related conditions and chronic disease.

The Australian Dietary Guidelines were updated in 2013, however 63% of General Practitioners state that they are unaware of the recommendations2. In response, Dairy Australia has facilitated the development of the Foods That Do Good communication program to provide health professionals with a central source of nutrition information. The website features a nutrition calculator that provides summaries of the Australian Dietary Guidelines serve recommendations across each of the five food groups, specific to age groups and genders.

A range of healthy recipes designed to help Australia meet their recommended serves for dairy and vegetables have been developed, and can be accessed from the Legendairy website.

Media enquiries

Melanie Wilkinson, Fenton Communications | melanie@fenton.com.au | 03 8537 2790 | 0418 105 913

Kate Jenkins, Fenton Communications | kate.jenkins@fenton.com.au | 03 8537 2790 | 0407 067 683

Alexandra Haddon, Fenton Communications | alex@fenton.com.au | 03 8537 2790 | 0437 482 881

Interview opportunities

  • Glenys Zucco, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Consumer Marketing & Communications Manager at Dairy Australia
  • Emma Glassenbury, Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Health Professional Communication Manager at Dairy Australia
  • Shaun Lindhe, Communication Manager at AUSVEG
  • Lucinda Hancock, Accredited Nutritionist at Nutrition Australia



1 Australian Health Survey: Consumption of Food Groups from the Australian Dietary Guidelines. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Released 11 May 2016.

2 A survey of 200 Australian GPs was completed in May 2015 by IMSHealth, data remains unpublished