Fruit and vegetable consumption low across the world

eating-burger_280_528732a1A new study to be published in the May edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine paints a depressing picture of the dietary habits of modern man across the globe.

National Diet and Nutrition Surveys in the UK have found that less than 15 per cent of the population eats the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day; a similar situation exists in the USA.  It appears that the same is also true in developing countries, where traditional diets are threatened by the introduction of processed food.

A survey of over 200,000 people in developing countries showed that overall 77.6 per cent of men and 78.4 per cent of women consumed less than the suggested five daily servings of produce. 

“Low fruit and vegetable consumption is a risk factor for overweight and obesity, and adequate consumption decreases risk for developing several chronic diseases,” said lead author Spencer Moore. “The release of the 2002-2003 World Health Survey data provided a unique opportunity to examine global differences in low fruit and vegetable consumption in a way that has until now simply not been possible.”

There were wide variations among nations, ranging from 37 percent of men in Ghana who did not meet that standard – to 99 percent of Pakistani men. The researchers saw similar findings in women with the same two countries at the high and low ends of the spectrum.

The prevalence of low fruit and vegetable intake increased with age and decreased with income. This contrasts with findings from the UK where, on average, older people consume more fruit and vegetables than younger people.

family-eating-banana1

Epidemiological studies show that societies consuming high quantities of fruit, vegetables and whole grains are at lower risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers than those that consume low quantities.  Such societies are often, but not exclusively, in less economically developed parts of the world.  As GDP per capita increases, countries opt for eating more meat, more processed food and less fruit, vegetables and whole grains.  This dietary shift leads to an epidemiological shift – away from infectious diseases and other diseases associated with lack of food, towards chronic noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke and cancer. 

The decline in consumption of fruit and vegetables in developing countries is disturbing as it is likely to give rise to an increase in the incidence of chronic diseases, leading to huge burdens on the healthcare systems of those countries, which may be ill-equipped to cope.

For information and practical tuition in how to create mouth-watering dishes with locally produced fruit and vegetables, come along to Cooking for Health courses held throughout the year in Somerset, UK.

If you are a caterer, or a professional responsible for encouraging healthier catering practices in your community, you will benefit from participating in a two-day training course on Healthier Catering.   By the end of the course, participants will: 

  • Understand the basic principles of nutrition
  • Be aware of the importance of food in the maintenance of health and well-being
  • Appreciate the role of lifestyles and culture in influencing diet
  • Recognise the potential benefits for both caterers and customers of providing a choice of healthier options
  • Know more about ingredient selection and methods of food production and processing that can be used to create healthier options, whilst being attractive and convenient to modern tastes and lifestyles
  • Be able to apply appropriate and relevant skills and knowledge when advising catering businesses or when planning, preparing, promoting and serving healthier foods

For further details about the course content and the course tutor, Dr Jane Philpott, please see http://cookingforhealth-uk.com/healthier-catering.php.

Reference

Hall JN, et al. Global variability in fruit and vegetable consumption. Am J Prev Med. 36(5), 2009.

Over-eating when eating out

Recently, I gave the menu of a well-known chain restaurant to a group of students and asked them to select what they would eat if they were dining there. 

 

They selected a starter (garlic bread with cheese), a main course (traditional lasagne with a salad), a dessert (ice cream) and a drink (a can of coke). 

 

Using the restaurant’s own nutritional information, they calculated the nutrient content of what they had chosen (Table 1).  The results left the students open-mouthed.

 

Their menu selection had provided:

 

n 106% of the guideline daily amount of calories (assuming 2000 kcal per day);

n 141-171% of the guideline daily amount of protein (depending on whether they were male or female);

n 61% of the guideline daily carbohydrate;

n 109% of the guideline daily amount of total fat;

n 192% of the guideline daily amount of saturated fat

n 52% of the guideline daily amount of salt. 

 

It is worth noting that the dietary reference value for salt in the UK is 6 g per day, compared with 2.3 g per day in the USA.

 

Thus, one meal out would have provided more than the entire day’s requirement for calories; enough protein to last for one and a half days; and enough saturated fat to last for two days.

 

Most people have no idea of the nutrient content of the food they are eating, nor of the potentially damaging effects on their health of a dietary excess of sugar, saturated fat and salt. 

 

Given that at least one–third of household expenditure on food and drink is spent on food eaten outside the home in the UK, food manufacturers and caterers have a real opportunity to contribute to an improvement in public health whilst also making a profit themselves. 

 

There is now convincing research evidence to suggest that increasing the amount of fruit, vegetables and whole grains in the diet, whilst decreasing the amount of sugar, saturated fat and salt, helps to protect the body from chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and various cancers.

 

A two-day professional training course is offered, tailored to equip caterers, and those involved in encouraging healthier catering practices, with information and practical tools to achieve healthier eating in the population.

 

By the end of the course, participants will:

  • Understand the basic principles of nutrition
  • Be aware of the importance of food in the maintenance of health and well-being
  • Appreciate the role of lifestyles and culture in influencing diet
  • Recognise the potential benefits for both caterers and customers of providing a choice of healthier options
  • Know more about ingredient selection and methods of food production and processing that can be used to create healthier options, whilst being attractive and convenient to modern tastes and lifestyles
  • Be able to apply appropriate and relevant skills and knowledge when advising catering businesses or when planning, preparing, promoting and serving healthier foods

For further information on the course content and the course tutor, Dr Jane Philpott, please click http://cookingforhealth-uk.com/healthier-catering.php.

 

 

Table 1

Menu item

Calories per portion

Protein g per portion

Carbohydrate g per portion

Total fat g per portion

Saturated fat g per portion

Salt g per portion

 

Starter

 

568

 

29.8

 

35.6

 

34

 

16.5

 

1.15

 

Main course

 

934

 

 

42.2

 

74.4

 

33.1

 

14.6

 

1.84

 

Dessert

 

 

475

 

5.5

 

18.8

 

18.1

 

11.1

 

0.15

 

Drink

 

 

139

 

0

 

35

 

0

 

0

 

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total

 

 

2116

 

77.5

 

163.8

 

85.2

 

42.2

 

3.14

 

Gov guideline

 

 

2000 kcal

 

45 g/day (women)

55 g/day (men)

 

267 g per day

 

78 g per day

 

22 g per day

 

6 g per day

 

% of guidelines

 

 

106%

 

171% (women)

141% (men)

 

 

61%

 

109%

 

192%

 

52%

 

 

 

Take up of school lunches

In their report on Food in Schools, Ofsted inspectors observed that take up of school meals had declined since the introduction of the government’s new standards for school food in 2006.  They recommended that schools identify the barriers to take up of school meals and seek to eliminate them. 

meals_470_300_470x300

Here in rural Somerset, the most significant barrier to take up of school meals is lack of ability to provide them in the first place.  The 1980 Education Act gave Local Authorities the power to axe school meal provision.  In 1991, the Conservative-led County Council in Somerset closed its central school meals service.  By 2005, 209 out of the 271 schools in Somerset were without production kitchens, many having converted them into computer suites.  Now, less than 20 years later, the government is exhorting schools to provide hot lunches again.  Not only this, but “it would like all schools to be model suppliers of healthy, local and sustainable food and drink.  Food should, where possible, be produced or prepared on site.”  To assist in achieving these goals, which are undoubtedly worthwhile, it has provided each primary school with £1070 p.a. + 50p per pupil and each secondary school with £1500 p.a. + 50p per pupil, for 3 years.  

In spite of the inadequate investment, many Somerset schools have been determined to offer pupils the option of a healthy hot lunch, recognising the clear link between diet and children’s health, behaviour and academic performance.  This goal is particularly challenging for small rural primary schools who have no kitchens and, in some cases, no halls either. 

In one small primary school in Somerset, the headteacher set up a contract for meal provision with a Local Authority catering provider.  Initially, the caterer said they would be unable to provide transport for the food but he begged them and they relented.  He then realised that he had no-one to do the washing up, so he persuaded the man who drives the delivery van to help out.  His next hurdle was to find somewhere for the children to eat, as his school does not have a hall.  He negotiated for use of the village hall, only to find that the tables and chairs there were too high for the children.  He applied to the Local Authority for grant money to purchase child-sized tables and chairs, to be told that he would not be eligible as the furniture would not be stored on the school premises.  Having procured furniture by other means, he was faced with an insurrection from his lunchtime supervisors, who complained about the extra work involved in setting up tables and serving food as well as supervising the children.  Initially, insufficient quantities of food were delivered, some of it congealed, adding to his angst.  He then found that he had to extend the lunch break, as it takes longer for children to eat hot lunches than packed lunches and there was insufficient time for the lunchtime clubs.  This headteacher is not alone in having to move mountains to provide healthy, hot lunches in a small rural primary school. 

In my role as a school governor, I worked for a year to implement hot lunches when my children were at the village primary school, overcoming challenge after challenge; this was all on a voluntary basis.  There is no kitchen at the school, so two cooks were hired and the kitchen of the Community Hall used to create delicious home-cooked meals using locally produced ingredients.  The food is transported to school in insulated containers in the back of a car.  As it is an old Victorian school, there is no dining hall either.  So at 1200, in an exercise of logistics and imagination that would impress the British army, the Year 3 and 4 classroom is transformed into a dining area.  The meals then have to be served, cleared away and all the furniture moved back to recreate a classroom by 1300.  

Since the project started in June 2007, take up has remained at between 70 to 90 per cent.  Even some children whose parents have not signed up and paid, have been known to sneak in hoping that someone will take pity on them and give them a meal instead of them having to eat the jam sandwich in their packed lunch box.  

Delivery of the project was almost completely reliant on volunteer help and local fund-raising, which included a grant from our Parish Council.  Due to parents’ inability to pay, meals are only provided on two days per week, and the current economic situation and the rising cost of food further threatens the viability of the project.  Without subsidies for school lunches, it is virtually impossible to ensure widespread provision and take up of quality hot lunches, even when there is support from staff, governors and parents.   

So, come on Mr Brown – if you really care about the nation’s health and well-being, put your money where the children’s mouths are.

If you are a caterer, or have a role in encouraging healthier catering practices, and would like training and information on the effects of diet on health and practical tools to achieve healthier eating in the population, why not sign up for a Healthier Catering Training Course.  This two-day course, which can be delivered in any location on request, will enable you to:

  • Understand the basic principles of nutrition
  • Be aware of the importance of food in the maintenance of health and well-being
  • Appreciate the role of lifestyles and culture in influencing diet
  • Recognise the potential benefits for both caterers and customers of providing a choice of healthier options
  • Know more about ingredient selection and methods of food production and processing that can be used to create healthier options, whilst being attractive and convenient to modern tastes and lifestyles
  • Be able to apply appropriate and relevant skills and knowledge when advising catering businesses or when planning, preparing, promoting and serving healthier foods