Healthy diet confuses consumers, FSA says

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food standards agency, Nutrition

People in the UK are sometimes confused when it comes to making
sure they eat a healthy balanced diet, a Food Standards Agency
survey has found.

The survey, released yesterday, showed that consumers were unaware of the importance of starchy foods in their diet, or that tinned fruit and frozen vegetables counted towards their "five-a-day" portions. The results points to further opportunities and room for improvement by both regulatory authorities and industry bodies to help consumers understand what they need to eat to get the best out of their diet. The survey coincides with the launch of the new eatwell plate from the Food Standards Agency, which is designed to "cut through the array of conflicting messages around food and reminds us what a healthy diet is."​ A spokesperson added that it "helps people make confident choices about what they eat by clearly showing the types and proportions of foods that strike a good balance.​" Of the 2,094 people surveyed 73 per cent recognised we should aim to eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, but only 11 per cent said we should eat a lot of starchy foods. The majority of people (97 per cent) recognised that fresh fruit and vegetables count towards the five-a-day target, but the figure dropped to about half for tinned (45 per cent) and frozen (54 per cent) fruit and vegetables and dried fruit (53 per cent). Almost two thirds (58 per cent) recognised that we should only eat foods high in fat and sugar occasionally. However, around a fifth (19 per cent) incorrectly said that to enjoy these types of food we should eat "plenty of fruit and vegetables" to outweigh the consumption of high fat and sugar foods. Rosemary Hignett, head of nutrition at the Food Standards Agency, said: '"The eatwell plate is a reminder of the essentials - the secret is simply knowing the proportions of a balanced diet and making easy, practical food swaps where we can. It's not a 10-minute fad; it's a diet for life that we know will help reduce the number of diet-related illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers, which are on the rise in the UK. "This is about a simple, straightforward approach that allows us to enjoy a varied diet that includes foods from all groups. Once armed with the knowledge of what we should try to eat more or less of, there are other tools available such as nutritional front of pack labelling to help with choices about salt, sugar and fat in our food." ​The eatwell plate has been updated with consumer research so it is more practical, the FSA said, and some food groups have been renamed so they are clearer. The former version of the plate model is called the Balance of Good Health and is already used by a number of companies and organisations including the British Nutrition Foundation, Marks and Spencer, Meat & Livestock Commission, National Consumer Council. In 2004 a report commissioned by the children's charity NCH found that a healthy diet is a luxury many UK families cannot afford. ​The report called on food manufacturers and retailers to work with the government's food watchdog to reduce salt, sugar and fat in foods aimed at children and remove snacks and sweets from supermarket checkouts.

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