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A national survey of the diet of children aged 13–14 years living in urban areas of the United Kingdom

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Despite a general agreement on the need to improve the diet of adolescents there is very little information about their eating habits. In particular, there has only been one national survey of the eating habits of school-aged children, which was conducted in 1982. Part of the reason for this lack is the problematic and expensive nature of conventional dietary surveys. This is a report of an inexpensive method which records the intake of key foods only. Although nutrient intakes were not assessed, all dietary advice has, ultimately, got to be given in terms of which foods to eat more or less of. It is entirely reasonable, therefore, to assess diet in these terms also. A national survey of 13–14 years olds attending schools in urban areas of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland was conducted. Responses were collected (n=1197) concerning the intake of specific foods, height and weight and whether or not each individual received a free school meal. The results confirm the need for major changes in the eating habits of adolescents, especially those who are the least privileged. In particular, relatively few subjects reported consuming fruit or vegetables and the most popular items were the least desirable foods—confectionery, biscuits and cakes. A surprisingly high proportion of these adolescents admitted drinking alcohol on the previous day, especially in the southeast of England. A substantial change in the national diet is urgently needed, but changes are unlikely unless a variety of policies are put in place to match the provision of information.

Keywords: BMI; children; diet; free school meals

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: 1: Liverpool John Moores University, School of Education and Community Studies, 24–28 Bloomsbury Way, London, UK 2: Liverpool John Moores University, School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, 24–28 Bloomsbury Way, London, UK 3: Liverpool John Moores University, The Flora Project for Heart Disease Prevention, 24–28 Bloomsbury Way, London, UK

Publication date: 1997-01-01

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