How has the UK’s diet changed over 9 years?

In the news / Friday, January 25th, 2019

Every year we receive the latest update on the UK’s diet, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS).  This particular report shows time trend data over the course of the 9 years that the survey has been running, it’s a great resource because we can really start to see how our diets are changing (or not changing) over time.

Data collected is based on a combination of food diary’s and bio assessments, so it does give a fairly true picture of how we’re doing as a nation.  I’ve summarised some key observations below looking at key food and drinks and then from a nutrient angle.  The report did include the correlation between income and diet quality which I haven’t included below so if you wanted to read the full report you can find it here.

Let’s take a look at key foods and drinks first…

Fruit and Veg

It’s no surprise that we’re not eating enough and have consistently consumed below the recommended 5 portions of F&V a day across the 9 year data collection.

Fruit Juice

There is a downward trend in consumption fruit juices over the 9 year period. This isn’t too surprising given the government’s push on trying to reduce our free sugars intake.


A slight downward trend has been seen in our red/ processed meat consumption.  Awareness has been raised between the link of processed meat consumption and some cancers over the past several years which may be a reason for this… also the huge movement we’ve seen towards flexitarian and vegan lifestyles has probably played a factor here too.

Sugar Sweetened Soft Drinks

It’s great to see that the consumption of sugar sweetened drinks has dropped considerably over the 9 year period, particularly in the 11-18 year group where they have seen consumption go from 285g to 185g/ day.

And now let’s look at the results from a nutrients perspective…

Free Sugars

We can see a considerable reduction in our free sugars intake which is great, the government have put strategies in place to help us reduce our free sugars consumption, NDNS data indicates that this seems to be working…

Fat and Saturated Fat

There’s no apparent trend of reduction in fats or saturated fats and data indicates that we’re consuming over the recommended level of saturated fat.


We’re not consuming enough!  Worryingly in the 4-10 years group, there has been a significant reduction over the 9 years.

Vitamins and Minerals

Intakes have decreased over the 9 years, particularly seen with Vitamin A and Folate.  Women aged 11-64 years have dropped below the Reference Nutrient Intake level for folate and this is an extremely important nutrient, particularly for women who are planning on having a baby. 

Vitamin D

Because this is a “seasonal” vitamin in that we can only absorb it from the sun from April – Sept time, blood data is collected in both winter and summer months.  Winter data showed that almost 30% of adults were at risk of deficiency.  Supplements and fortified foods should most certainly be considered during January through to March, aiming for 10µg per day (but you know that because of my last post 😉 )!

OK.. so in summary…

  1. We need to eat more fruit and veg! Full of vitamins, minerals and fibres.
  2. Our consumption of added sugars is reducing… but we’ve still got a long way to go.
  3. We need to be eating more fibre! I cannot stress the benefits and importance of fibre enough, including gut health and reduced risk of some cancers. Fibre can be sourced from wholegrain foods (brown pasta and rice), nuts, pulses and beans.
  4. Ensure you’re eating a range of nutrient dense foods from all food groups to ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. A handy guide for this is the Eatwell Guide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *