Young people * Healthy living

Teens turn to junk food instead of fruit and veg

Teens turn to junk food instead of fruit and veg Food4Thought survey results

The five-a-day message is failing to get through to teenagers as they opt to snack on crisps, chocolate and sweets instead, a survey has found.

And these high salt and sugar snacks aren’t just occasional treats: almost one in three children in the UK said they ate these types of products three or more times a day. An even higher number - 40% - admitted to drinking fizzy or energy drinks during the day.

The survey, for the British Heart Foundation, questioned 2,000 young people aged 11 to 16 about their daily diets.

The junk snacks weren’t just part of a more balanced diet; almost nine in ten children questioned said they were not eating the recommended five a day portions of fruit and vegetables. They were more likely to eat crisps (34%) at lunch than fruit (31%).

With this kind of diet it’s not surprising that a third of children (11 to 15 year olds) in England are overweight or obese.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) is using these results to launch its Food4Thought campaign aimed at tackling the staggering levels of childhood obesity.

From the responses, the charity estimates that a child’s typical daily diet includes a packet of crisps, a chocolate bar, a bag of chewy sweets and either a fizzy or energy drink.

This equates to almost 30 teaspoons of sugar every day and more fat than in a cheeseburger — over a third of the daily calorie intake in snacks alone.

Victoria Taylor, BHF’s senior dietician said: “It’s already been suggested that this generation of children may not live longer than their parents due to the implications of their lifestyle on obesity levels, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

"We all have to realise that this generation’s food choices today could have long term consequences on their future health.”

For a healthy and balanced diet the advice is to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables daily.

But in many schools there is limited access to healthy snacks. As part of the Food4Thought campaign the charity is working with 30 schools in the UK to establish healthy vending machines.

However, the issue stretches beyond the school gates. Once the school day has finished, children have access to local shops and then it is much harder for adults to police children’s intake.

This article was published on Thu 24 November 2011

Image © Lori Martin -

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