Quick, easy and cheap: survey shows how we choose food

Quick and easy: Aussies opt for convenience over healthy alternatives. Photo: Shutterstock
Quick and easy: Aussies opt for convenience over healthy alternatives. Photo: Shutterstock

Convenience remains a top priority when choosing what to eat, with a new study showing Australians spend nearly a third of their food budget on fast food.

When asked about their dietary choices, 63 per cent of those surveyed preferred food that was easy to purchase.

Other preferences included quick to cook (59 per cent), healthy for my body in the long term (55 per cent) and cheap to purchase (54 per cent).

The research, conducted by life insurer Noble Oak, showed 85 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 years ate fast food, such as chips, pizza, fried chicken and kebabs, at least once a week.

This age group also spent the most on fast food, 38 per cent of their weekly food budget.

In contrast, 18 per cent was the result for people aged 65 years and over.

Reasons behind choices also altered as people aged, with respondents aged 55 years and over more focused on food that was healthy and low in fat.

Dietitian Rachel Scoular said third-party ordering apps like Menulog, Deliveroo and Uber Eats made it easier to buy fast food within minutes.

A good sign: People aged 55 years and over more focused on food that was healthy and low in fat.

A good sign: People aged 55 years and over more focused on food that was healthy and low in fat.

"In the past, fast food and takeaway usually meant Chinese food and pizza, ordered on weekends," she said.

"However, with the arrival of such apps we are now spoilt for choice with fast food options and accessibility, so we're now seeing higher consumption rates throughout the week and not just on weekends."

Ms Scoular said changing lifestyles had also made a difference to eating habits.

"We are now working longer hours with longer commutes and have less time during the week for personal tasks such as cooking," she said.

The survey indicated NSW had 14.2 fast food restaurants respectively per 100,000 people, the second lowest rate in the country.

Tasmania recorded the highest total, 27 restaurants per 100,000.

Ms Scoular said the statistic that 55 per cent of those surveyed ate less than one portion of fruit or vegetables a day was "alarming to say the least".

"There's a great opportunity for intervention and nutrition education here, small changes and simple swaps to alter your intake to include more fruits and vegetables, wholegrain cereals and low-fat products are all great steps that are quite easily achieved," she said.

"I think we often fall on the excuse of being time poor and a lack of education, but there are so many small changes Australians can make to ensure they're living a healthy life.

"I'd encourage anyone who feels they may be consuming too much junk food or are after some support to speak with a trusted GP."