Popcorn or chips? Your guide to junk snack substitution.

Ministry of Health
Thanks to our brand partner, Ministry of Health

Over the last 60 years our lifestyle and eating habits have changed dramatically. As our lives have become busier, we’ve become less active and started eating more unhealthy foods. It’s easy to think that our current habits are normal, but when we look at how our grandparents used to eat, we realise just how much things have changed. Some changes are great – our diets now reflect our gloriously multicultural society.

Other changes are not so great – we tend to reach for the most convenient option which is often not the healthiest. The good news? It’s never too late to start eating more fresh and healthy foods, and it’s good to establish these habits early for kids. Let’s look at how our diets have changed since the 1950s and some simple alternatives that will make healthy eating normal.

1. Sneaky sugar.

Our grandparents certainly didn’t follow a sugar-free diet. Sunday dinner in the ’50s was often finished off with a bread and butter pudding, an apple crumble or some jelly and cream. The sugar was out and proud saying, “Hey, I’m sweet, enjoy!”. The difference now is the amount of hidden sugar we’re consuming through our consumption of processed and packaged foods. Sugar is found in pre-made sauces, breakfast cereals, fruit juice, yoghurt, even dry spice mixes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends limiting sugar consumption to six teaspoons a day for adults and three teaspoons for kids.

We’re also a much more sedentary bunch than our grandparents, so less likely to use up the excess energy (sugar) we now consume.

EASY FIX: Swap fruit juice for water or fruit pieces, switch to plain yoghurt, and use onion, garlic or lemon to flavour meals. It’ll take some time to get used to, but the whole family will be better for it.

Watch out for hidden salt and sugar when you're eating out. Image: iStock.

2. Our culinary horizons have expanded.

In the 1950s, meat and three veg dominated the dinner table. Meals often comprised of a casserole, stew or steak accompanied by boiled or roasted veggies. As our society has become more multicultural, so have our diets. Curries, burritos, stir-fries, pasta and pizza are now commonly consumed by Aussie families. Some of these are great healthy options (hello rice paper rolls, sushi and fresh salads), while others need to be eaten in moderation (I’m looking at you, three cheese pizza).


EASY FIX: Replace deep-fried meals with fresh, steamed, grilled, barbecued, roasted or stir-fried foods.

Takeaway is cheap and far easier to access. Image: iStock.

3. Plus-size portions.

In addition to eating the wrong types of food, we're eating too much. While there is little data on the average portion sizes of the 1950s, leading health scientists at Cambridge and Oxford universities predicted that we've doubled our consumption of energy-dense food. The problem with dishing up behemoth portions is that, apart from picky toddlers, we generally eat whatever is on our plate.

EASY FIX: Order or serve an entrée-size main meal, and add extra vegetables or salad instead of chips to balance out your plate.

4. Snacks and treats are the norm.

In the 1950s, people generally had three sit-down meals per day. Now we tend to graze or have snacks in between meals and often they're not healthy choices. According to a 2015 study by the Cancer Council and the Heart Foundation, treats have become part of the daily diet for 85 percent of Australians. Instead of viewing treats as a "sometimes" food, our kids are eating chips, chocolates, muffins and muesli bars every day.

EASY FIX: Replace chips with plain popcorn, pre-cut fruit and veggies, and make healthy snacks with the kids on the weekend.

We are all guilty of snacking while watching TV! Image: iStock.

5. Junk food and takeaway dominate.

Modern life is crazy busy which has us reaching for the most convenient meal option. Often that's junk food. Over the years, takeaways have become more affordable and readily available with the ability to order online and have a meal delivered to your door within 15 minutes. Grandma certainly didn't have a food-order app loaded on her smartphone. Grabbing some chicken nuggets and chips at the drive-thru while playing taxi to the kids is a common occurrence because it's super quick, cheap and hassle-free.

EASY FIX: Pre-cook and freeze home-cooked meals on the weekend so you don't have to rely on takeaway during the week.

Fast food is just too convenient to resist. Image: iStock.

Most of us are doing the best we can to juggle our busy work schedules and raise kids. It's so easy to let unhealthy habits creep into our diets. Looking at how our diets have changed over the last 60-70 years can certainly put thing in perspective and encourage us to make a few small adjustments that will help our kids establish healthy eating habits early in life.

How do you fit healthy eating into your busy family schedule? Tell us your tips below!

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Make Healthy Normal