Health Check Report 5
Media releases Publications

April 7, 2015

Health Check #5 - Community perceptions of food selection and the path to a healthy diet

58 per cent of people believe their diet is not balanced and needs to change

A new Medibank study released today shows that there are a complex range of factors affecting the food we select, which challenges our ability to choose nutritious food and pursue a healthy balanced diet.

The Medibank Health Check #5 – “Food selection – you are what you eat” - is the fifth quarterly community survey of emerging health issues.

Medibank’s Dr Ian Boyd said the results reveal that there is no single ‘quick fix’. 

“The survey of 1,500 people revealed that price, nutritional value and mood are the leading motivators of food selection.

“Although 76 per cent of people believe a healthy lifestyle is about making the right food choices, only half felt that their diet was due to factors within their control. Clearly, the myriad of influences on what people eat means the path to better health is more difficult than it could be. 

“The fact that people feel they don’t have control over the food they eat is of particular concern, with the survey showing:

  • 64 per cent of people eat what is served up to them;
  • 52 per cent believe they should change their diet but don’t know how;
  • 53 per cent find it difficult to make healthy choices.
  • 69 per cent say meal selection depends on what is in the kitchen

“The issue of control is compounded by the prevalence of snacking with 68 per cent of respondents saying they snacked between main meals.

“There was also a high level of uncertainty about whether people have a balanced diet: 58 per cent of respondents are either uncertain or believe their diet is not balanced.

“The survey also highlights important demographic differences, with food selection being better in older age and with females who generally exhibit stronger decisiveness around their food choice. 

“The family home remains an important influencer of food selection and the TV continues to rule as the place to consume meals with 60 per cent admitting they eat in front of the TV.  Interestingly, cultural background has one of the lesser influences on the food selection and consumption,” Dr Boyd said.

Dietitians Association of Australia spokesperson Katie Mueller said the Medibank Health Check #5 confirms that price is still the number one factor that influences food choices for 23 per cent of respondents surveyed.

“This shows just how important it is that healthy foods, like fruit and vegetables, remain affordable for Australians, especially those in rural and remote areas, to make it easier for people to choose these foods,” said Ms Mueller.

“What the Health Check also shows is that when it comes to diet and health there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ or magic bullet approach, so it’s important to take a long-term approach to healthy eating, based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines and to consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian for personalised, practical nutrition advice.”

Accredited practicing Dietitian Tim Crowe agrees noting that when it comes to a healthy diet eating fresh is best.

“Eating healthier is not about keeping up with the latest food trends on social media. One simple change to make is just loading up your weekly shop with more fresh and perishable foods, and less shelf-stable processed foods. Then let inspiration play its role in your kitchen,” said Associate Professor Crowe from Deakin University.

Finding the reasons why Australians are struggling to make healthy food choices is only part of the equation, the other is working with the community to resolve these issues and achieve better health outcomes for the next generation - and this begins with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.

“We are seeing the consequence of poor food choices right before our eyes with the spiraling rates of obesity and overweight children in Australia.  Our school-based kitchen garden program exposes children to the pleasure and satisfaction of growing, cooking and eating fresh produce so these positive skills can be carried throughout their lives”, said Ange Barry, CEO of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation.  


About the Medibank Health Check:

The Medibank Health Check is a quarterly survey focusing on issues where Australians have noticed some health or wellbeing impacts and personal action or involvement of the health services sector may be required.  The Medibank Health Check aims to inform debate around emerging health related issues and unpack what may be required to take action to address emerging health concerns. 

For the fifth Health Check, we chose to look at how people choice the food they eat and how much control they feel they have over their food choice. We also worked with key health and community groups to decipher our research and recommend how we can address these serious issues as a nation moving forward.

 The first four Medibank Health Check reports looked at: (i) the health impact of ‘screen-time’ (ii) life aspirations and where ‘living in good’ health rated on Australians list (iii) explored Australians’ views on health and wellbeing in the workplace – its importance, responsibilities and health impacts and (iv) explored Australians views on physical body image and how it related to health and wellbeing.

For more information/interviews:

Emily Fear-Gook, Medibank Media Advisor, 03 8622 6353,

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