I prepare and source almost all my own meals and have identified several key benefits that contribute to greater health through these actions. Firstly, I have better control of portion sizes for potentially dangerous foods such as trans-fat. Consuming too much trans-fat such as deep-fried foods, raises your LDL (bad) cholesterol, which in turn increases your risk of heart disease. (1) Secondly, preparing my own meals enables me to better adhere to The Australian Dietary Guidelines. (2) I can do this by having the ability to choose my own ingredients when shopping and making sure my meals are nutritionally balanced.
Following these guidelines decreases the risk of chronic disease and improves your general health. (2) Leading on from that point, preparing and sourcing my own meals enables me to increase my fruit and vegetable intake. Evidence advises that increased fruit and vegetable intake equate to higher rates of improved mental wellbeing. (3)
From the questionnaire I have agreed that not adding sugar to your tea and coffee and not adding salt to your food at the table are very important for your health for a multitude of reasons.
A study has found an association between consuming a greater intake of sugar sweetened beverages with glycemia and inflammatory markers. (5) Some observational studies have also proved a clear connection between sugar sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity. (6) It is also widely known that excessive salt intake can lead to high blood pressure which is a big risk factor for heart disease. (7) Salt intake can also contribute to osteoporosis by readily enabling more calcium to be expelled in the urine. (7) From this evidence it can be clearly seen that refraining from adding sugar to your hot drink and salt to your food can help control your intake of these substances, and therefore be beneficial for your health by reducing the risk of disease.
Taste is without a doubt a strong influencing factor in my mind when shopping for grocerys. If I like the taste of certain foods, I will purchase them more frequently and in a greater abundance.
Taste is fundamentally important for food selection and survey results have shown that taste is a driving factor and rated as very important to people in choosing food. (7,17,18) This can affect the quality of an individuals diet if they prefer sweet tastes and chose sweet foods over other perhaps healthier options. Even from a biological standpoint taste is a strong factor in food choice and in order to survive, our biological design needed to assist our ancestors to consume foods with plenty of energy and to avoid potentially harmful substances Sweet-tasting foods usually signal energy. ( 9). Even today taste play an important role in food choice.
The Food Frequency Questionnaire was not a good indication of the foods I consumed over a month. There was a somewhat large variety of foods to select, although in saying this there wasnt a category for superfoods and it also didnt provide options for certain fruits that I consume regularly. An example from my diet is, barley grass and dragon fruit which was not available for me to select. I also really struggled to recall all the foods I consumed over that time span and my results could be inaccurate due to memory inconsistencies. Furthermore, the questionnaire grouped certain foods together that I may only consume one of and this doesnt portray a very accurate representation of foods within my diet. For example, on the questionnaire it asks how many times a month you consume zucchini, eggplant and squash. I answered once a week, however I only consume zucchini and the survey doesnt give you an option to differentiate between the three vegetables.
From the questionnaire I can gather that I consume approximately three serves of vegetables daily. According to The Australian Dietary Guidelines females aged 19-50 should be consuming five serves of vegetables each day. (10) Compared to these recommendations my daily vegetable intake is insufficient.
My intake does not meet guidelines due to the amount of vegetables I include in my daily diet. There are many ways I could increase my consumption such as increasing portion sizes and swapping foods to vegetable alternatives. For example, from my survey results I consume sweet potato daily, however according to the Australian dietary guidelines the quarter of sweet potato I eat is only half a serve. (10) By doubling my amount of a vegetable that I consume daily that provides me with a guaranteed increase of daily serves. The results also show that I consume savory biscuits daily and pasta 2-4 times a week. Through exchanging the biscuits for carrot and celery sticks and swapping the pasta for spiralized zucchini, this will also greatly increase my daily serves of vegetables.
The questionnaire was effective at portraying my likes and dislikes because there was a wide range of common or everyday foods from each food group to assess. For example, porridge and cheese are commonly known foods and as a result it was easy to rate them as I have knowledge about them.
From the questionnaire, milk and eggs are two foods that I rated as dislike extremely. The reason for both is simply that I dislike the taste of these foods. This is the sole factor for all the foods I rated in a similar response such as fish and duck. One potential reason why I dislike these foods is the limited exposure I had as a child. Studies have shown that Increased exposure to foods increased childrens liking and acceptance of that food. (11)
Liking is a good predictor of food choice and this can be clearly seen when comparing my results from the Food Frequency and Likes and Dislikes Questionnaires. (12) For example, porridge and banana was rated as like extremely and this correlates with the frequency of these foods in my diet, as I consume porridge once per day and bananas 2-3 times daily. Another example is the foods I rated as dislike extremely such as eggs and fish and this relates to the Food Frequency Questionnaire results as consumed never or less than once per month. There can be a strong relationship identified from my results that the more I like a food the more I choose those foods in my diet.
In 2017 a study was carried out in select UK primary school cafeterias to observe if a Behavioral Nudge Intervention caused an increase of fruit and vegetables in children. (13) The study consisted of introducing five behavioral nudges to the intervention schools. (13) These include brightly coloured posters and creating attractive names such as Dinosaur tree broccoli with the intent to entice children into choosing fruit and vegetables. (13) All the food had food labels and was presented as attractive servings with vegetables being served before other foods. (13) The results from this intervention showed an overall increase of fruit consumption in the children, however no increase of vegetable consumption. (13)
Adequate fruit and vegetable intake are commonly known to be greatly beneficial for health. Greater intake has been shown by multiple studies to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and high blood pressure. (14,15) This is especially important as heart disease is the most common cause of death. (14) Some studies have found that increasing intake improves mental well being ad lowers rates of depression. (3,16) An increase would also help meet daily requirements of nutrients as vegetables are important sources of many nutrients. (15) From this evidence if fruit and vegetable consumption was increased to the recommendations by the population there would be lower risk of disease, lower rates of depression and less risk of nutrient deficiencies. This would improve the health and in turn the quality of life for people.