To do: a healthier diet for the UK population

After nearly a year away from the UK I thought that I would investigate the ‘big picture’ in regard to the health of the general population…you know, just in case I missed anything important while I was away. Here’s a summary:


According to the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) conducted in schools

  • About 1/3 (33.3%)of 10-11 year olds are overweight or obese
  • More than 1/5 (22.2%) of 4-5 year olds are overweight or obese

A report from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) highlight studies that say 77% of the parents of overweight children do not recognise that their child is overweight. The annual Weigh-In report (from the Academy of Royal medical Colleges) says that in the last year there has been no progress in regard to some important changes that could improve the health of children, including improving the nutritional standards of school lunches in free schools and academies, restricting the advertising of junk food and investment in weight management services.


The lifestyle statistics team at the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) reports:

  • 66.6% of adult men are overweight or obese
  • 57.2% of adult women are overweight or obese
  • Not many people are very active – for example, about 50% went for a 10 minute walk at least once in a 4 week period
  • Over 10,000 people were admitted to hospital due to their obesity in 2012-13

The CMO is concerned that being overweight is becoming ‘normal’, since the majority of the population is overweight or obese. Research shows that many people who are overweight think that their weight ‘is about right’, but the concern is that they are comparing themselves to the severely obese people that feature in many news stories and are not representative of most overweight people.


The latest national diet and nutrition survey (NDNS) has found:

  • Adults eat about 4 portions of fruits and vegetables every day (5-a-day is recommended)
  • Children eat about 3 portions of fruits and vegetables every day
  • Few of us eat the recommended amount of oily fish (140g) once a week
  • We all eat too much sugar – which can be hidden in all kinds of foods
  • We all eat too little fibre
  • We are getting enough vitamins from the food we eat, except for vitamin D (more time in the sun needed). Some children were also a bit low on vitamin A and riboflavin. Supplements, like multivitamins, do not seem to help.
  • Some of us are not getting enough minerals from the food we eat, particularly iron. Supplements do not seem to help.
  • Nearly half of adults had high cholesterol levels, which increases risk of developing cardiovascular disease

The HSCIC reports a significant increase in household expenditure on fats and oils, butter, sugar and preserves, fruit and fruit juice, soft drinks and beverages.

Overall, it seems there is still reason for concern about the weight status of the population and there is plenty to be done to encourage a healthier diet. Good news for nutritionists like me…lots of work to do! I’d better get cracking!!

What do you find interesting about this information?






An introduction to healthy eating in Latin America

When travelling in Central America recently I was asked to provide an overview of good nutrition and healthy eating for a Latin American audience.

Nutrition: An introduction to healthy eating in Latin America

What do you think?


Easy ways to get your 5-a-day

In case you have hidden under a rock for a few years, I will mention the recommendation that we eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables  each day for good health. To make it clear that’s 5-a-day in total – such as, two fruit and three veg.

A portion is about the size of a handful or a tennis ball (80-100g) – such as an apple, banana or 6 brussel sprouts. A portion for a child is the size of their handful (perhaps a golfball size).To make sure that we get a variety of nutrients, 5-a-day also means eating 5 different fruit and veg each day and 5 differently coloured fruit and veg (like strawberries, apricots and spinach). Potatoes give us energy and so are not counted as one of our 5-a-day.

To meet the 5-a-day target, try to eat fruit or veg for most meals and snacks. There are so many choices and so many ways to include fruit and veg in your diet – here are a few examples:

  • Try to start the day with some fruit – I like to have a banana or a few dried apricots with my morning coffee
  • Breakfast – sprinkle a tablespoon of dried fruit onto your cereal (instead of sugar), have sliced banana on toast (delicious with a drizzle of honey), mix fruit into some yoghurt, make a smoothie, or have some juice
  • Morning snack – try carrots or celery with homous or guacamole (these dips also count towards your 5-a-day)
  • Lunch – try to include some salad or vegetables – choose soup with vegetables, munch on some cherry tomatoes, have a juice or smoothie, or finish with some fruit
  • Afternoon snack – chopped or dried fruit with some nuts (nuts contain protein so will help fill you up until dinner time)
  • Dinner – try to include salad, vegetables or finish with some fruit

Choose fruits and vegetables that you like and that you would be happy to eat regularly. Remember that canned, frozen and dried fruit and vegetables count towards your 5-a-day, and these are good choices which may overcome concerns about the prices or wastage of fresh fruits and veg.