The five-a-day health message is failing and we are falling short of the latest guidance on fibre, according to a new report commissioned by Fruit Bowl®, the health-conscious food brand.
Experts say it is time to rethink healthy-eating messages and look for fresh strategies to ensure children, in particular, eat their five-a-day and hit the fibre targets recently recommended by health watchdogs, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.
A review just published in the journal of Complete Nutrition suggests one simple step would be to swap a sugary snack for dried fruit or a fruit-based snack.
Dr Emma Derbyshire, a public health nutritionist, mum and one of the report authors agrees: “Putting the new UK fibre guidance into practice will not be easy. This is why brands like Fruit Bowl have looked at how children in particular can increase their fibre and indeed their fruit and vegetable needs. They have just introduced the new Picked and Pressed range which provides a natural source of fibre and counts as one of our five-a-day. So, simple changes such as replacing one item of confectionary with a fruit-based snack such as Picked and Pressed will provide an immediate benefit in terms in increased fibre consumption.”
FACT: The new Picked and Pressed range from Fruit Bowl:
- Counts as one of your five a day.
- Is a natural source of high fibre
- Has no added sugar
Fruit Bowl’s Picked and Pressed is a convenient fruit-based snack that helps to encourage youngsters to develop a liking for fruit flavours while providing much needed energy in a school lunch box or at the end of a school day. Fruit Bowl® Picked and Pressed products are also a high, natural source of fibre which makes them very different to other fruit based dried foods. This is thanks to the inclusion of milled flaxseed which is part of the recipe creation behind Fruit Bowl’s® Picked and Pressed range. Flaxseed is naturally very rich in fibre and does not interfere with the texture or taste; vital for any dried fruit based food for kids. Plus, fibre such as flaxseed, is a great satiety ingredient which will not only help fill up a ‘little one’ but it will keep hunger pangs at bay.
Tackling the fruit and fibre challenges
The benefits of eating five-a-day and more fibre are beyond doubt, but despite more than a decade of five-a-day campaigns, on average, 11 to 18-year-olds manage a mere three portions a day and only 10% of boys and 7% of girls are eating five servings of fruit or vegetables a day, data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) shows.
The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s new (SCAN) guidelines recommend that two to five-year-olds need to consume 15g of fibre a day and five to 11 year-olds should get 20g. Their own data shows that current intakes are 4g to 6g below their recommendations. SACN’s data is also showing similar shortfalls among older children, with 11 to 16-year-olds, managing just 16g of fibre a day — 36% less than the SACN recommendation of 25g.
The new SACN guidance is based on compelling evidence that higher fibre intakes reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer. There is also a growing body of evidence to suggest fibre aids weight control, lowers cholesterol, reduces the risk of irritable bowel syndrome and relieves constipation.
Fruit and vegetables are an important source of fibre, but a review by Dr Carrie Ruxton, which has just been published in the journal of Complete Nutrition, warns: “The five-a-day message is not resonating with parents, or there are too many barriers to compliance.”
She says: “It is time we acknowledged that the current strategies are not working. It’s not enough to keep repeating the same five-a-day mantra. Everyone knows about the health benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables, but that knowledge is not being translated into action.”
In fact evidence for the benefits of eating more fruit and vegetables has grown since the World Health Organisation launched the five-a-day goal in 2003 and some experts believe we should be eating even more.
Scientists at University College London have shown that eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables cuts cancer risks by a quarter and reduces the odds of dying from heart disease by almost a third (31%).
Dr Ruxton believes NDNS data points to an easy way to increase intakes of both fruit and vegetables and fibre. In some age groups, children get almost a quarter of their calories from so-called “discretionary foods” such as biscuits, confectionery, crisps and soft drinks.
And she points out: “Something as simple as switching to dried fruit or a fruit-based snack with no added sugar and a natural source of fibre will increase intakes of fruit and fibre while reducing fat, salt and, added sugars.”
In summary, Dr Emma Derbyshire adds: “We can no longer ignore the evidence of the NDNS and other gold-standard sources. It’s time to take a fresh look at five-a-day and find new ways to encourage consumption of more fruit and vegetables.
“Parents want simple answers — and while that is rarely possible when it comes to diet and nutrition, there is one simple strategy that is undoubtedly a step in the right direction — and that is to swap just one bag of crisps or confectionary for a fibre-rich fruit-based snacks, such as one of the products in the Fruit Bowl range like new Picked and Pressed.”
- Bates B et al. (2014) National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme years 1-4. London: FSA/PHE.
- https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/445503/SACN_Carbohydrates_and_Health.pdf page 198