Young Australians lack knowledge of fruit and vegetables

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 6th December 2011

A University of Sydney survey has found that only 54 per cent of Australians aged between 18 and 24 know the recommended daily amounts of fruit and vegetables to eat each day.

The survey of 106 university students aged 18 to 24 was published in the Dietitians Association of Australia’s journal, Nutrition and Dietetics.

Many of the survey’s participants also did not know the correct serving sizes for three (grapes, carrots and lettuce) of the four foods tested in the study – although most could correctly identify the serving size of an apple.

One of the researchers, PhD student Emily Kothe said that some participants estimated the serving size of grapes to be just one grape. Others estimated the serving size for carrots to be the equivalent of 20 carrots. The recommended serving sizes are 20 grapes and half a medium-sized carrot, Ms Kothe noted.

According to the University of Sydney health psychology expert Dr Barbara Mullan, this research offers the first concrete evidence that young Australians do not know their fruit and vegetable basics.

Ms Kothe said, “When we asked participants to identify the vegetables in a beef hotpot recipe, only 78 per cent classed canned tomato as a vegetable. Even less identified onion as contributing towards their vegetable intake (71 per cent). One in 10 incorrectly thought the beef would contribute towards their daily fruit and vegetable intake.”

The Australian Government, through the National Health and Medical Research Council, recommends adults have two serves of fruit and five serves of vegetables each day and attributes a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and some cancers to consumption of these levels.

Accredited practising dietitian Julie Gilbert said, “Australia’s last national nutrition survey found 19 to 24 years olds were the most likely of all age groups to not eat enough fruit and/or vegetables.

“Fruit and vegetables have plenty of vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, folate and magnesium, and are a good source of fibre. They are also low in saturated fat, salt and sugar. These are the foods that help people look and feel their best,” she said.