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Research unveils youngsters’ unhealthy eating habits in the UK
11/06/2018 - 07:00
New research has today unveiled the unhealthy eating habits of Britain’s youngest consumers – with 60% of 11-16 year olds buying fried foods at lunchtime or after school at least once a week.

The findings form part of the British Nutrition Foundation’s (BNF) Healthy Eating Week, which saw it survey 5,000 primary and secondary school students between the ages of 7 and 16.

Key results include:

  • 60% of 11-16- year olds buy food such as chips or fried chicken from takeaways at lunchtime or after school at least once a week
  • 31% have an energy drink at least once a week
  • 39% of secondary and 48% of primary school students eat three+ snacks a day – ‘encouragingly’ citing fruit as their most popular choice
  • That said, 46% of 7-11 years said they snack on crisps and chocolate

While most children admitting to getting their snacks from home, one fifth of primary and one third of secondary kids also buy them from a shop.

Roy Ballam, BNF managing director and head of education, commented: “While it’s encouraging that children are motivated to eat well, many of the children we surveyed also said they didn’t like the taste of healthy foods (36%) or thought they were boring (20%).

“This is where education about nutrition, cooking and food provenance can play a key role in helping children understand and get familiar with the foods that make up a healthy diet.

“With snacks, sugary drinks and takeaways readily available to many children on their way to and from school, we need to do all that we can to educate young people about eating well.

“While our survey showed that parents are the first port of call when children are concerned about health - 67% agreed they would talk to their parents if they were worried about their health or weight - it’s also vital that we support teachers to deliver evidence-based and engaging information to children about food and nutrition.

“Many food teachers may actually get little training in nutrition and addressing this is key to ensuring the quality of food education in schools."

Although 46% of secondary school students admitted that being good at sport motivates them to eat healthily, 35% admitted that being ‘too tired after school’ is one of the main reasons stopping them from being active.

Ballam added: “Thinking about where our food comes from and how it is produced is an important part of developing an understanding of food.

“Last year, BNF Healthy Eating Week's survey revealed that one in ten 14 – 16 year olds in the UK thought that tomatoes grow underground, and a quarter of primary school children said that cheese comes from plants.

“This year, our survey shows that one in ten primary school children think that eggs are an ingredient in cheese (19% do not know that apples are grown in the UK, and 13% of primary-aged pupils thinks that bananas are grown in the UK.”)

“To improve the nation’s knowledge of food provenance and healthy eating, accurate information needs to be readily available for teachers, parents and children themselves.