Irish among the worst in Europe for eating their greens

It seems as a nation, we’re just not eating our greens — or our oranges, or bananas, or much of what is good for us.

A European report, seen by the Irish Examiner, shows that Ireland is lagging behind most of our EU counterparts when it comes to eating the daily recommended amount of fruit and veg.

According to the newly published European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Comprehensive European Food Consumption Database 2016, Irish people consume just 225g of fruit and vegetables on average per person per day, less than half the national recommended amount of 500g.

That equates to just 46% of the recommended daily amount, while Europeans on average eat 55% of the suggested intake of fruit and vegetables.

Similarly, the average daily consumption of 100% fruit juice among Irish adults is 21ml per person, significantly less than the nationally recommended 150ml serving.

Europeans on average drink 31ml of 100% fruit juice each day, in addition to fruit and vegetable intake.

It means that among 19 European countries, Ireland is the sixth least compliant for adhering to national fruit and vegetable guidelines. In contrast, Italians were the most compliant, eating even more than the recommended amount (106%), although we do fare better than some countries, including the least compliant, Austria.

The food pyramid has recently been updated, recommending seven-a-day fruit and vegetables rather than the old five-a-day.

Commenting on the findings, dietitian Mary McCreery said simple changes such as drinking a small 150ml glass of 100% fruit juice with breakfast or having a banana or apple instead of a chocolate bar as an afternoon snack can help boost overall daily intake of fruit and veg. She dismissed concerns that drinking more fruit juice could mean consuming too much sugar.

“A concern sometimes voiced about increased fruit juice in particular, is its sugar content,” she said. “But this is a false perception as there is no added sugar in 100% fruit juice; it is prohibited by law, which explains why many countries surveyed as part of the report class 100% fruit juice as a portion of fruit.

“Consumption of 150 ml 100% fruit juice on a daily basis does contribute to a person’s free sugar intake, as free sugars are naturally present in the fruit from which it is squeezed. But even then, consuming 150 ml of 100% orange juice for example, falls below even the WHO’s most stringent recommendation, which restricts free sugar intake to 25g per day.”

Meanwhile, research from Bord Bia’s Insight Centre, The Thinking House, has found few people follow an eating regime, with just four in 10 saying they believe in eating a balanced diet.

However, the research found that more people believe their eating habits are becoming healthier, with one third saying they are eating healthily. A survey found that 59% of respondents check for sugar content and this rises to 71% in those conscious of their children’s sugar intake. It also showed that 40% believe it is hard to get children to eat vegetables.

The research also found that half of respondents are concerned with the amount of food that is thrown away, and half of Irish consumers say they always buy brands that use environmentally sensitive packaging.


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