Having taken into account the views of 40,000 survey respondents, Csiro nutritionists found that a national addiction to junk food largely was to blame for the country’s paltry nutritional rating.
When assessed against Csiro’s healthy diet score, which is based on official Australian dietary guidelines, the national diet was scored 61 on a 100-point scale.
The survey was used to evaluate a person's diet based on variety, frequency and quantity of essential food groups, as well as individual attributes like age and gender.
Discretionary food, or junk food, intake was found to be three-times higher than the recommended daily limit, and based on the survey results, Australians eat the equivalent of 32kg of chocolate each year. The average score received for the discretionary foods category was only 37 out of 100.
Dairy diets were almost as dismal with a fail mark of 49, though this was attributed to under-consumption. National intake of fruit and vegetables is also less than dietary guidelines, resulting in ratings of 67 and 68 respectively.
According to Manny Noakes, Csiro’s head of nutrition research, the results should be taken very seriously.
"The scores were fairly unflattering across all respondents," said Prof. Noakes. "If we were handing out report cards for diet quality, Australia would only get a C.
"While many people scored highly in categories such as water intake and the variety of foods consumed, there is certainly lots of room for improvement in other areas.
"What we're finding is people are having larger portions of junk food, more often,” said Prof. Noakes, adding that this type of food is no longer viewed just an indulgence.
“It’s become mainstream and Australians are eating it each and every day.”
The dietary snapshot also found men were more likely to consume chocolate, soft drinks and alcohol than women. Retirees and those working in healthcare and education had better diets than those in the construction industry.
The survey also found Australia's healthiest eaters were found on the north coast of New South Wales.