News / Veg Cities

How our diets are changing over time

The latest results from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey reveal that while consumption of sugary drinks has fallen, there has been no decline in sweet confectionery and chocolate consumption. Most people are still not eating the recommended 5 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day and children aged 11 to 18 still only eat around 3 portions a day.

Credit: Oleg Magni, Pexels

Credit: Oleg Magni, Pexels

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey has been running since 2008 and provides a crucial insight into how our dietary habits are changing over time. Results are published every two to three years. In December 2020, Government published the latest data from 2016/2017 to 2018/2019, giving us a snapshot of the state of the nation’s diet during this time.

Positive signs that our diets may be becoming healthier

  • While sugar consumption remains too high, since 2008 there has been a steady decline in sugar intake in both children and adults. However, further data shows that while consumption of sugary drinks has fallen, there has been no decline in sweet confectionery and chocolate consumption, with intake even going up in some groups.
  • There has been a fall in red and processed meat consumption over the past decade. All adults now consume, on average, below the maximum recommended daily intake of red and processed meat (70g per day).

Concerning trends

  • Saturated fat intake looks to be increasing in some groups. While it is not possible to say definitively why this is happening, we do know there has been a big increase in popularity for lower-carb diets over recent years.
  • Average intakes of fibre, which is important for our digestive health, are still far below the recommended daily amount, with no meaningful change since 2008.
  • Salt intake was still higher (8.4g) than the recommended intake of 6g per day. While salt intake was been decreasing slowly over time, this decrease has slowed since 2014.
  • Most people are still not eating the recommended 5 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day. Children aged 11 to 18 still only eat around 3 portions a day, though there has been a slight increase in consumption since 2014-16.

Check the full results of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey or the Public Health Matters blog.

Published 5 Jan 2021

Veg Cities: Veg Cities is a feature campaign of the Sustainable Food Cities led by food and farming charity Sustain in partnership with the wider Peas Please initiative led by the Food Foundation, Nourish Scotland, Food Cardiff and WWF.

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