What are our eating habits?
We’re all aware of the dietary message “Eat your five a day”. From bus stop posters and television adverts to whole government campaigns, there is no getting away from the dietary obligation we have to our bodies. And it is an obligation – our bodies are put through a lot on a daily basis, so the least we can do is fill them with healthy, nutritious foods to help keep them going.
Part of this balanced diet should comprise five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, something which, according to our Health of the Nation survey, many of us are missing out on. This is despite very obvious health benefits, such as a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity, and the additional dose of vitamins and minerals like folate, vitamin C and potassium. But exactly how many of us are foregoing this good stuff for unhealthy alternatives?
Despite organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommending five portions of fruit and veg per day for both men and women, both sexes are falling short of the requirement by around two portions. On average, our male respondents consume just 3.3 portions per day, while female respondents fare slightly better with 3.5 portions. This brings the UK average to 3.4 portions of fruit and veg per day, despite the fact that 60% of our survey respondents do recognise that they should be eating the full five.
This skirting around fruit and vegetables seems to be most prevalent in Northern Ireland, where people eat a shockingly low 2.8 portions of fruit and veg per day. Things improve somewhat in the south west of the country though, where respondents ate, on average, 3.7 portions of fruit and veg per day. Impressively, some people even went beyond the recommendations, with 11% of people from Yorkshire claiming to eat seven whole portions!
At the other end of the scale there are the fruit and veg-phobes from Northern Ireland and Wales – 7% of whom report not eating any fruit or vegetables at all! A further 20% of people from Northern Ireland only manage one portion a day, along with 14% of those from Wales. This could very well be down to just how sceptical we are about the “five a day” guideline. Our survey discovered that 38% of men are sceptical about the validity of this guideline, while 29% of women are too. Scepticism is highest among 16 – 24 year olds though, with a huge 47% of them being wary of the guideline.
It isn’t just the recommendations around fruit and vegetables that respondents are sceptical of either; nearly two in five of us aren’t so sure about the national health guideline for water consumption. In fact, both men and women fell drastically short of the recommended amount, with men consuming an average of 954ml per day (compared to the recommended amount of 2 litres), and women an average of 897ml (compared to the recommended amount of 1.6 litres).
Given that, according to research by Cambridge University, we can cut our risk of premature death by heart disease by 20% if we eat just one apple, or 50% if we add a banana and an orange, it’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t eat their five a day. Some of the most commonly cited reasons for turning to unhealthy alternatives are attempts to save money, and not having enough time to prepare fresh food, but consuming that all-important five is actually easier than you might think.
To find out more about the key foods we should be including in our diet and how to eat more of them, check out our article on key foods we should include in our diet.