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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 10:41 GMT
Children's diet seriously lacking
Many teenagers eat a poor diet
As many as 200,000 children in England and Wales will have eaten either no fruit or no vegetables in the previous seven days, research shows.

A MORI poll commissioned by the Cancer Research Campaign and the supermarket chain, Iceland, looked at the eating habits of 11-16 year olds.

The poll discovered that up to 6% of the children questioned had either eaten no fruit or no vegetables in the previous seven days.

It also found that, on average, children are eating less than 13 portions of fruit and veg a week.

Study findings
Carrots and sweetcorn are the most popular vegetables among children
Peas and broccoli were also relatively popular
Sprouts were by the far the least favourite vegetable
Strawberries were the most popular fruit
Tomatoes and avocados were the most hated fruits
Government guidelines recommend eating at least 35 portions of fruit and vegetables a week.

Dr Lesley Walker, CRC Director of Cancer Information, said: "We all know that it can be difficult to encourage children and teenagers to eat their greens.

"It is very concerning, however, that so many children are eating so little fruit and vegetables."

The government has recently introduced a scheme to provide free fruit to 80,000 primary school children in over 500 schools. The scheme is to be extended nationally by 2004 following an investment by the New Opportunities Fund.


However, Dr Walker warned that it was also important that older children and teenagers were also encouraged to eat healthily.

She said: "There is growing evidence to suggest a good diet can reduce cancer deaths by up to a third.

"While cancer is a disease which generally affects older people, it is so important to lay the foundations of a healthy lifestyle early on. We need to do all we can to encourage children to be used to eating a balanced diet before they reach adulthood."

Lucy Cooke, from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund Health Behaviour Unit at University College London, says: "These findings lend further weight to a growing body of research indicating that fruit and vegetable consumption in the UK, especially among low income groups, falls well below the five portions a day recommended by health promotion organisations world-wide.

"In conjunction with The Cancer Research Campaign, our unit is carrying out research aimed at identifying the reasons why children's intake is so low, and developing scientifically-based strategies to increase intake.

"Since eating behaviours are initiated in childhood and may persist into adulthood, early intervention is likely to reap the maximum health benefit."

MORI interviewed a representative sample of 2,635 schoolchildren aged 11-16 within 111 schools in England and Wales.

See also:

01 Jun 00 | Health
Children 'eating themselves ill'
27 Apr 00 | Health
Parents fear for children's diet
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