Nutrition Tips

We know veggies are good for our health, so why is this messaging not having us eat enough?

Posted on
January 19, 2021

 It sounds like such a simple thing to do, eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, but obviously not, as most Australians are not eating any where near the recommended servings of two fruit and five serves of vegetables a day.  The big questions is why not, is it really that hard to do, why does the message not resonate and are we not investing in areas to facilitate?

According to ABS data [1]of2015, 93% of Australians are not eating the recommended servings of vegetables which seems surprising considering we have grown up being told they are good for us; that is years of a consistent message we appear to ignore, or do we listen but think it isn’t relevant to us, find it too hard to act on?

As a nation we spend millions of dollars on all sorts of treatments to improve our health from our own pockets, some with little evidence to back it up, let alone the government spending on health of 117billion[2]dollars in 2015-2016. So why is the messaging to invest money, time and effort in what we know works; eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables not happening?

As health professionals including public health initiatives and campaigns, how about we try a new approach, different messaging? The dollar investment on health is huge, but a greater investment in effective, impactful messaging that causes behaviour change surely should be apriority? Look at some of the so called, documentaries on health that have come out in the last few years, they have grabbed people’s attention with many people making behaviour change. I cringe at much of the messaging, but am fascinated by the traction they get. How do we replicate this with our messaging? Maybe a movie producer could help us in a new innovative way, whilst still sticking to evidenced based information. Should some dollars be invested here?  

There is plenty of research around buying, shopping habits and behaviour change available. Marketers use tactics all the time to have us buy products we probably don’t need; but end up thinking we do by tapping into knowing what makes people buy! We know what many of the barriers are to people not buying and preparing fresh produce so what do we do to overcome this? More of the same health campaigns and hoping for a different outcome is unlikely. Let’s tap into how successful brands do it. After all food is literally a pretty good medium to attract people to, great to photograph and a topic we all have some knowledge about and interest in.

Here are 4 things I believe we need to consider doing:

1.      A new marketing strategy

Stop telling people they need to eat more fruit and vegetables for their health as the key message – particularly for long term health- we know this, but still for many of us we don’t act on it.

Marketers very successfully create a feeling of need for so many products we probably don’t ‘need’ but we still buy, so how can we ‘create’ this same desire and need for beautiful fresh produce? Make fresh fruit and vegetables more appealing, they are beautiful after all so surely we can do this? It is of course much easier to walk into a store and buy address, it doesn’t need to be prepared, stored and cooked but it does still have washing up!

2.      Create Confidence

How will I prepare these fruit and vegetables to taste delicious with minimal time and effort? People watch cooking shows and buy cook books with avengense but who has hours to prepare a chef made meal nightly?  Let’s invest in developing basic cooking and food preparation skills; free cooking classes anyone, fresh produce market or farm tours- even if only online. Quick, easy, simple and tasty (this is key) ways to prepare food so we are confident, competent and enjoy doing it regularly. I am sure some creative people can come up with more ideas to upskill the population in food preparation!

3.      Good quality, affordable produce

Why does fast food and highly processed packaged food sell so well? Because people know exactly what they are buying, it is consistent each time; often including the price. Fresh produce does not come with the same guarantee. Think of a fresh, good quality apple that is crisp and juicy compared to a floury, bruised one. One bad experience can see you not returning. We need to create positive experiences with fresh produce, so people know what to buy when, with a pleasant experience seeing them return. The introduction of concepts such as ‘the odd bunch’ at supermarkets is helping people understand fresh produce can be tasty even if it might not look perfect.

Fresh, quality produce needs to be available at affordable prices, including in rural and remote areas. This is a huge food security question to answer but I am sure we can if we truly devote some resources to solving it!

4.     Look after the environment

Looking after the environment is a motivating factor that resonates with many, so use this in messaging. Reducing food waste (eating those veggies on your plate,) and food miles and many other environmental benefits of eating more plant foods might be motivating for many with the health benefits an added bonus!  

If we all eat the recommended amount of fresh fruit and vegetables per day around the world there won’t be enough to go around, according to a study published in The Lancet Planetary Health[3]. Addressing this issue should be added to the list of challenges, looking at the food system, reducing food waste and increasing productivity.

All those innovative communicators and marketers out there, help us sell the message somehow!

#nutrition #eatmorefruitandveg #communication #messaging #marketing