Many people in Britain are still not eating enough fruit and vegetables, with the national average fruit and vegetable consumption currently at less than 3 portions per day.

The UK Food Standards Agency recommends that people eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, but the National Diet and Nutrition Survey has revealed that on average men eat 2.7 portions per day and women eat 2.9 portions per day. Only 13% of men and 15% of women are eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

The first comprehensive survey of adult eating patterns since 1987 has also found that there has been a significant increase in consumption of fruit and vegetables by women in the oldest surveyed age group (50-64 years) from 3 portions per day in 1987 to 3.7 now. In the same age group 24% of men and 22% of women ate the recommended five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

In the youngest age group (19-24 years) there has been no increase in fruit and vegetable consumption compared to 1987.

Consumption of fruit and vegetables was found to be lower in households that were in receipt of benefits than in others, with 35% of men and 30% of women in this group eating no fruit during the survey week, compared to 19% of men and 12% of women in other households.

On average, across the whole population, oily fish consumption has increased from 34g to 53g a week – a rise from about a quarter of a portion to a third of a portion.
This is mainly because women are eating more oily fish – as a group, their average consumption has gone up to around a third of a portion per week, compared to around a fifth in 1987.

The Agency’s advice is to eat two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily (a portion is approximately 140g). People are eating more salmon, which has become more readily available and cheaper in recent years.

Consumption of some foods and drinks has risen notably. For example, banana consumption has increased by nearly 300% since 1987. From eating the equivalent of three-quarters of a banana a week in 1987, people are now eating two a week on average.

Consumption of non-alcoholic drinks has also risen dramatically, according to the survey. People consume an average of nearly 2.75 cans a week of non-alcoholic fizzy drinks now compared to an average of 1.5 cans a week in 1987. Young people on average now drink the equivalent of six cans a week.