Teenagers are the worst in the country at eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day – and the problem is getting worse.

A Public Health England report today found that only 10 per cent of boys and seven per cent of girls aged 11 to 18 ate the recommended number of portions of healthy food.

This is down one point for each sex on last year’s report, prompting nutritionists to warn of the “compelling” need for dietary changes to safeguard against disease.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey of 500 children and 500 adults between 2008 to 2012 found the population was eating to much sugar, saturated fat and salt.

Intake of “added” – rather than naturally occurring – sugars was highest in young children and teenagers, with rates reaching 15.6 per cent of food energy compared to the 11 per cent recommended maximum.

Adult diets included 12.6 per cent saturated fat – above the 11 per cent target – while pensioners aged 65 and older were most likely to exceed the six grams a day salt maximum.

Teenage boys consumed on average three portions of fruit and vegetables a day – while girls managed 2.7 portions. The average for adults was 4.1 portions, though pensioners ate 4.6 portions.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said:


The data released today provides compelling evidence that we all need to make changes to our diet to improve our health, especially for teenagers.

“Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fruit, vegetables and fibre and low in saturated fat, sugar and salt, alongside being more active, will help you to maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
“The findings, from the four years covered by the survey, confirm that eating habits do not change quickly. It is clear that we all need to work together to help people improve their diets; this data will help PHE to target its work in the most effective way.”