The only source of information on children's healthy eating behaviour is the Every Child Matters (ECM) survey, which was carried out in participating primary and secondary schools in Herefordshire in the spring of 2009.
Respondents were given the following definition of a portion of fruit or vegetables:
A portion is about a handful. To help you decide, all of these count as ONE portion:
ONE portion = 80g = any of these…
1 apple, banana, pear, orange or other similar sized fruit
3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables (raw, cooked, frozen or tinned)
1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
a glass (150ml) of fruit juice (however much you drink, it counts as one portion)
a dessert bowl of salad
N.B. Potatoes don't count when thinking about 5-a-day
Overall in 2009, 31% of pupils in years 4 to 6 (the top three years in primary school) and 22% of pupils in years 7 to 10 (the first four years of secondary) ate at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables the day before the survey. In 2006, 24% of pupils in years 7 to 10 ate 5-a-day.
There was a general downward trend with age, with older pupils being less likely to get their 5-a-day. This is particularly marked amongst males, where 34% of year 4s ate 5 or more portions, compared with 14% of year 10s.
Table 1. Percentage of pupils who reported eating 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables the day before the survey, by gender and school year
Charts 2 and 3. Percentage of pupils who reported eating 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables the day before the survey, by gender and school year
It is possible to look at the number of portions of fruit and vegetables eaten according to the Body Mass Index (BMI) category of secondary pupils. This cannot be shown for primary pupils as too few gave height and weight information to get a meaningful analysis. Pupils classed as obese are the least likely to eat their 5-a-day (16% of pupils in this group), while those classed as overweight were the most likely (27%). 22% of pupils in the normal range ate their five a day, while 24% of those classed as underweight did so.
Chart 4. Portions of fruit and vegetables eaten the day before the survey, by BMI category
You may also be interested in adults eating their 5-a-day.
Pupils considering their health when choosing what to eat
Pupils in years 7 to 10 were asked whether they considered their health when they chose what to eat. Overall in 2009, 51% of pupils said they considered their health at least “quite often” (quite often, very often or always). 8% never considered their health when choosing what to eat. This is similar to 2006 when 52% considered their health at least quite often and 9% never considered it.
In the 2009 survey, there was a reduction in the percentage of males considering their health at least quite often in the higher age categories, from 53% in year 7 to 37% in year 10. This reduction was not seen amongst females.
6% of pupils in years 4 to 6, and 13% of those in years 7 to 10 had nothing to eat before lessons on the day of the survey. In 2006, 8% of pupils in years 7 to 10 had eaten nothing before lessons. Secondary pupils who were classed as overweight or obese were more likely to have eaten nothing before lessons (15% and 16%, respectively) than those in the normal range (10%) or underweight (4%).
Chart 5. Pupils in years 7 to 10 eating or drinking anything before lessons on the day of the survey, by BMI category
14% of secondary pupils had no lunch the day before the survey in 2009 (11% in 2006). Amongst female pupils, there was an increase in the percentage missing lunch with age, from 9% of girls in year 7, to 23% in year 10.
Source: Every Child Matters Survey, 2009
Last updated: Wednesday, April 18, 2018