The Role of Beverages in the Australian Diet

A secondary Analysis of the Australian Health Survey: National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (2011-12)

Australians have access to a wide variety of beverages to quench their thirst and provide enjoyment.

To understand the role of non-dairy, non-alcoholic beverages in the diet of Australians, a secondary analysis of the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (2011-12) (part of the Australian Health Survey) was commissioned by the Australian Beverages Council and conducted by the CSIRO Food and Nutrition Flagship.

The secondary analysis examined beverage consumption levels and patterns and the relationships between beverage intake and nutritional status, lifestyle behaviour and other factors related to health.

This report aims to provide health professionals, health organisations, policy makers and the beverage industry with an accurate and contemporary understanding of the role of beverages in the diet of Australian children and adults.

Snapshot of key findings

softdrinks glass image smallWhat are Australians consuming?

  • Across the population, the most commonly consumed non-dairy, non-alcoholic beverages were water, followed by sugar-sweetened soft drinks and fruit juice.
  • In general, women consume more non-dairy, nonalcoholic beverages than men, though men consume more sugar-sweetened beverages than women.
  • Across the population, teenagers, especially males, are the highest consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • Among adult consumers, the average daily volume of sugar-sweetened beverages consumed was similarto low-kJ beverages (~670mL for males and ~485mL for females).
  • Among children, both the percentage consuming and mean intakes of soft drinks/flavoured water appear to have decreased between 1995 and 2011-12.
  • Among children, both the percentage consuming and mean intake of fruit and vegetable juices/drinks appear to have decreased between 1995 and 2011-12.

energyintakeContribution to energy intake

  • The contribution of beverages to total energy intake is relatively low across the population – 4% of adults’ and 6% of children’s intake.
  • The contribution of sugar-sweetened beverages to total energy intake increased with age to a peak in 14–18 year olds, before declining through adulthood.
  • Overall, soft drinks contributed <2% to the total energy intakes of Australian adults and children.
  • Discretionary foods and drinks contribute significantly to the total energy intake of the population – 36% for adults and 42% for children.
  • ADULTS: Choices contributing the most to total dietary energy from the discretionary food and drink category are: sweet biscuits (13%) and alcoholic beverages (13%), followed by burgers/pizza/ tacos (7%), pastries (6%) and chips (5%). Soft drinks provide 4% of discretionary kilojoules, ranked 7th.
  • CHILDREN: Choices contributing the most to total dietary energy from the discretionary food and drink category are: sweet biscuits (16%) and chips (11%), followed by burgers/pizza/tacos (10%), savoury biscuits (6%) and pastries (5%). Soft drinks provide 4% of discretionary kilojoules, ranked 7th.
  • Among discretionary beverages, alcoholic beverages were the highest contributor to total energy intake at 5.3% for adults, followed by soft drinks at 1.7%.

socioeconoomicsSocio-economic factors

  • In adults, consumption of non-dairy, nonalcoholic beverages was greater in people with higher household income, largely due to greater water intake.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was higher, and fruit juice intake was lower, in people with lower ranking of socio-economic status.
  • Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages was lower among those living in major cities compared to those in regional centres and more remote areas.

weight statusAssociation with weight status

  • In adults, there was no clear relationship between weight status and the proportion consuming sugar‑sweetened beverages, or the total consumption of these beverages.
  • Consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages increased with weight status in girls, but not boys.
  • Consumption of low-kJ sweetened beverages increased with weight status in adults.

nutrient contributionsNutrient contributions

  • Beverages contribute appreciably to total sugars intake, with soft drinks being the major contributor (7.7% of total sugars intake for children, 7.1% of total sugars intake for adults).
  • Fruit juices and fruit drinks provide about 60% of the Vitamin C intake of consumers of these beverages.
  • For all age groups of children (consumers and nonconsumers), fruit juice contributed 12–15% to total Vitamin C intake
  • On a population basis, the contribution of beverages (not including coffee or tea) to caffeine intake is low, though it averages about one-fifth of the caffeine intake among consumers of these beverages

lifestyleAssociation with lifestyle patterns

  • Beverage consumption is strongly associated with lifestyle pattern, which considers dietary quality and physical activity/sedentary behaviour.
  • Adults and children with the least healthy lifestyle pattern reported in the survey consume 4–6 times more sugar-sweetened beverages than those with the most healthy lifestyle pattern.


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