Both adults and children are not consuming enough veg to meet the Government’s EAT WELL GUIDE recommendations and this is likely to have a long term impact on our health with diets that are low in vegetables and legumes being associated with just under 18,000 premature deaths a year in the UK, according to the latest VEG FACTS 2021 report.
Children and teenagers continue to be consuming far too few vegetables with 29% of 5-10 year olds eating less than a portion of veg a day and only 6% of 11-16 year olds eating the amount of veg recommended in the Eatwell Guide. The report also highlights where children are getting their vegetables from with over a fifth of children’s and teenager’s vegetable intake now coming from foods classed as Ultra Processed which are often high in salt, sugar and fat. Baked beans and pizza together contribute 16% of children’s vegetable intake.
A number of children are at risk of micronutrient (vitamin and mineral deficiencies). 38% of children aged 11-16 have magnesium intakes below the lowest recommended amount, and 21% have intakes of vitamin A below the recommended amount. In the UK vegetables contribute >10% to intakes of these nutrients and could therefore be important sources of food which can contribute to driving up intakes of these essential nutrients, said the report.
The affordability of vegetables is also highlighted in the report as being a major factor in low consumption rates. Calorie for calorie, foods high in sugar or fat are a third of the price of the cost of vegetables.
If the population started to consume the recommended 5 a day of fruit and veg it would increase the value of UK veg production by £261 million. If this rose to 7 a day of fruit and veg it would add another £1 billion to the UK economy, according to the reports which is part of the Peas Please initiative, which works to make vegetables more appealing, accessible and affordable. Peas Please is a partnership with The Food Foundation, Food Sense Wales, Nourish Scotland, Belfast Food Network and Food NI. Since the project launched 4 years ago it has delivered 162 million additional portions of vegetables into our food system working across all 4 nations.
Anna Taylor OBE, Executive Director, Food Foundation said: “The latest report from the Peas Please initiative is a timely one – highlighting the barriers to eating enough veg that large sections of the population continue to face. Although we have seen some really encouraging progress made by our Peas Please pledgers, there has never been a more critical time to really accelerate action and ramp up vegetable intake. Veg are the golden thread connecting diets that are both more healthful and more sustainable, and we must act now to ensure that everyone in the UK is able to access and afford enough veg.”
Rebecca Tobi, Peas Please project manager said: “Our latest report, Veg Facts 2021, finds that although there has been some really encouraging progress made since the launch of Peas Please four years ago we still have a long way to go before the UK truly becomes a veg-eating nation. Most concerningly, children’s veg consumption remains stubbornly low, and the gap between how much veg the richest and poorest people in the UK are eating continues to widen. Ahead of COP26, and with this year the UN’s designated International Year of Fruit and Vegetables, we are calling for innovative, bold and creative actions from businesses, governments and citizens to drive up vegetable consumption across the UK.”
Michele Shirlow MBE, CEO Food NI, Peas Please partner said: “The Veg Facts Report is very relevant for Northern Ireland as currently NI has the lowest average veg consumption in the UK. We are working with growers and industry bodies to help to promote the excellent range of quality vegetables grown in NI, to the highest standards. Increasing veg in our diets will not only have benefits for our own health, but also local industry, communities and our planet.”