Australia, famed for its fertile lands and premium produce, finds itself in a dire dietary predicament. 

The nation's embrace of a balanced diet has withered, with the collective diet score sinking far below healthy levels.

The new CSIRO Healthy Diet Score report (PDF) canvassed over 235,000 adults' dietary habits from 2015 to 2023. 

Shockingly, the average diet score languishes at a paltry 55 out of 100, spotlighting Australians most susceptible to their dietary misadventures.

Dr Gilly Hendrie, CSIRO Research Scientist and co-author of the report, pointed out that despite the perception of Australians as a fit and healthy bunch, this low score is a glaring testament to the urgent need for dietary reform and national weight control. 

“The score is a stark reminder of the work that needs to be done to improve our eating habits and reduce the national waistline,” Dr Hendrie said.

This extensive survey invited people from all walks of life to participate between May 2015 and July 2023, assessing nine aspects of diet quality against Australian Dietary Guidelines.

It found that Australians stumble when it comes to discretionary, or junk, foods. With an average score of 20 out of 100, this category ranks the lowest across all demographics. 

Alcohol, cakes, biscuits, chocolates, and takeout meals bear the brunt of blame, with an average of 28 weekly servings.

Vegetables, on the other hand, earned a middling score of 58 out of 100, with only four out of ten adults managing three or more different vegetables in their main meal – a barometer of a healthy diet.

Surprisingly, the report suggests that Australians are closest to meeting dietary guidelines with beverages, securing a robust score of 93 out of 100 by choosing water over sugary drinks.

Meats and alternatives claimed the second spot with a collective score of 78 out of 100 for compliance.

Construction workers ranked among the worst eaters with a score of 51 out of 100, while retirees and fitness industry workers displayed the healthiest dietary patterns, scoring 59 out of 100.

Construction and beauty/fashion industry workers indulged most in discretionary foods, tallying around 45 servings per week.

Furthermore, the report unveiled that women outperform men in diet quality, scoring 56 versus 53 out of 100. Their vegetable intake notably outshines men, securing a score of 62 versus 54 out of 100.

"The good news is that a healthy diet can be achieved with some simple changes,” Dr Hendrie says.

“The things to keep in mind is reduce, increase and add variety. In other words, reduce the amount of discretionary foods being consumed, increase healthy foods including fruit and dairy and alternatives, and aim for variety by eating three or more different types of vegetables with your main meal.”

CSIRO says improving the nation's diet is critical for well-being, combating obesity, and curbing lifestyle diseases like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

It is inviting all Australians to take the free online Healthy Diet Score assessment to evaluate diet quality and pinpoint areas for improvement.