Diet and Economic Modelling to Improve the Quality and Affordability of the Australian Diet for Low and Medium Socioeconomic Households

Michelle Blumfield, Carlene Starck, Tim Keighley, Peter Petocz, Anna Roesler, Kylie Abbott, Tim Cassettari, Skye Marshall, Flavia Fayet-Moore

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Abstract

Food costs are a barrier to healthier diet selections, particularly for low socioeconomic households who regularly choose processed foods containing refined grains, added sugars, and added fats. In this study, the objectives were to: (i) identify the nutrient density-to-cost ratio of Australian foods; (ii) model the impact of substituting foods with lower nutrient density-to-cost ratio with those with the highest nutrient density-to-cost ratio for diet quality and affordability in low and medium socioeconomic households; and (iii) evaluate food processing levels. Foods were categorized, coded for processing level, analysed for nutrient density and cost, and ranked by nutrient density-to-cost ratio. The top quartile of nutrient dense, low-cost foods included 54% unprocessed (vegetables and reduced fat dairy), 33% ultra-processed (fortified wholegrain bread and breakfast cereals <20 g sugars/100 g), and 13% processed (fruit juice and canned legumes). Using substitution modelling, diet quality improved by 52% for adults and 71% for children across all households, while diet affordability improved by 25% and 27% for low and medium socioeconomic households, respectively. The results indicate that the quality and affordability of the Australian diet can be improved when nutritious, low-cost foods are selected. Processing levels in the healthier modelled diets suggest that some ultra-processed foods may provide a beneficial source of nutrition when consumed within national food group recommendations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5771
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume18
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2021

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