Academic ResearchCaloriesObesityPublic Health

What the UK eats (2012)

A comprehensive survey detailing what UK people eat has been available since 1940. It was called the National Food Survey from 1940 until 2000 and has been called the Family Food Survey since 2002.

The most recent Family Food Survey was published in December 2013 for 2012 data. It can be seen here. Table 2.4 is the main summary table for intakes by food category. The full table lists fat intake (who cares?) and some nutrients. The breakdown by energy intake is as follows:

All Food (average per person per day) Kcal As % of diet
1 Milk & Cream 168 8.4%
2 Cheese 58 2.9%
3 Carcase Meat 53 2.7%
4 Non carcase Meat & Meat Products 212 10.6%
5 Fish 29 1.5%
6 Eggs 16 0.8%
7 Fats & oils 174 8.7%
8 Sugar and preserves 63 3.2%
9 Fresh potatoes 47 2.4%
10 Fresh green vegetables 5 0.3%
11 Other fresh vegetables 17 0.9%
12 Processed vegetables 128 6.4%
13 Fresh fruit 43 2.2%
14 Processed fruit 49 2.5%
15 Bread 204 10.2%
16 Flour 37 1.9%
17 Cakes, buns & pastries 73 3.7%
18 Biscuits 107 5.4%
19 Other cereal products 239 12.0%
20 Beverages 6 0.3%
21 Other foods (ref 1) 82 4.1%
22 Soft drinks 45 2.3%
23 Confectionery 79 4.0%
24 Alcoholic drinks 58 2.9%
TOTAL 1,992 100.0%


Some observations

* Real food can be found in rows 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 13. This amounts to 436 calories – 22% of the total. 78% of what the UK eats is fake food. (Natural fats like butter and lard should be separated from highly processed vegetable oils to be able to allocate real fats to the real food category and vegetable oils to the fake food category.)

* Red meat (see here and here) is invariably lumped in with processed meat in studies that try to demonise all meat intake together. The average UK person consumes four times as much processed meat and meat products (that will include pies/pasties/sausage rolls and other carb enclosed stuff) as carcase meat. We record these intakes separately and academic studies are able to analyse them separately. They rarely do so.

* The Soft Drinks Association is fond of telling us that soft drinks account for just 2% of calorie intake. This is true (2.3%) but a) it’s a totally empty calorie intake and b) it’s more than our daily calories from fresh fruit and more than twice our calories from fresh vegetables. The soft drinks calorie intake also exceeds that of fish and is almost three times our calorie intake for eggs.

* One of the reasons I don’t attack soft drinks alone is this 2% figure. The main dietary culprit is sugar – nutritionally void and omnipresent. Sugar is in every fake food above with the exception of fats and oils. Sugar is thus in rows totaling 1,382 calories – just under 70% of UK calorie intake. Without sugar (and/or artificial sweeteners) there would be no: confectionery; soft drinks; cakes; buns; pastries; biscuits; processed fruit; sugar and preserves. Without sugar the following rows would also be decimated: cereal; bread; meat products (pies etc) and other food products (ref 1) in the UK diet.

If we could cut sugar alone from the human diet it is difficult to see how obesity could prevail – or much of the chronic illness now suffered by so many people: diabetes; cancer; cardiovascular disease and so on.

Check table 2.1 to see average nutrient intake – for the fat soluble vitamins especially: 530μg retinol (don’t assume that carotene can be converted); 3.07μg vitamin D and 12.22mg vitamin E. The US recently revised the daily recommended intake of vitamin D to be 15μg. Even with the UK (ref 2) guideline of 10μg, the average UK intake is not even one third of this. In October 2013, the Chief Medical Officer for England said that the country should be “profoundly ashamed” that rickets had returned to the UK. Government dietary advice, demonising as it does real food and natural fats, achieved this. That’s what Dame Sally Davies should be profoundly ashamed of.

* Table 1.2 (p5) tells us that the average Brit consumed 41g of butter per week – that’s less than 6g a day – that’s probably the amount left on the knife after buttering something! And public health advisors think that butter makes us fat. Ha ha! Contrast this with the 835 calories per day of the starchy foods that the government tells us to eat (rows 9, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19).

* The same Chief Medical Officer recently lamented that “obesity has become the norm.” Look no further than what we’re eating and what you’re telling us to eat.



Ref 1: Other food products includes: mineral or spring waters, baby foods, soups, other takeaway food brought home, meals on wheels, salad dressings and other spreads & dressings, pickles, sauces, takeaway sauces and mayonnaise, stock cubes and meat & yeast extracts, jelly squares or crystals, ice cream (all types), salt, artificial sweeteners, vinegar, spices and dried herbs, bisto, gravy granules, stuffing mix, baking powder, yeast, fruit, herbal and instant teas, and soya and novel protein foods.

Ref 2: Department of Health report 41, Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the united Kingdom.

12 thoughts on “What the UK eats (2012)

  • Can anyone tell me if it is OK to continue to take 1500mg of Metformin (per day) whilst on Phase 1. I finished phase 1 yesterday, felt like I was going to die! … and haven’t lost any weight. I am worried its something to do with the Metformin (I have PCOS) not diabetes.

    • Hi Rita – There’s a lot in a few words there!
      1) Many people feel bad in Phase 1 – withdrawal from caffeine, sugar and white flour can be pretty horrible. We have to remind people – real food doesn’t make you feel bad but coming off fake food can. So it could be unrelated…

      2) However – knowing what metformin does – if your carb intake dropped quite a bit for Phase 1 – metformin tries to lower blood glucose levels so you could have had a double whammy of less glucose in and the same amount of ‘trying to lower glucose’ going on and you could have had symptoms of Hypoglycaemia as described in the book.

      3) Not losing weight in Phase 1 is virtually unheard of (I can lose 4lb in 3 days if I do Phase 1) so this would suggest the metformin not helping and there is much evidence that diabetes medication (I know you don’t have diabetes but you’re on diabetes meds) is associated with weight gain (

      4) This may help understand the connection between PCOS, insulin, carbs etc

      I personally would eat real food and not take meds but you need to work with your doctor to find what’s best for you. I can’t see how anything that is associated with weight gain is going to help you!

      Hope this helps
      Best wishes – Zoe

      • Thank you so much for replying. The double whammy sounds very likely – and I am now going to stop the Metformin (I only started taking it because I read it helps with weight loss if you have PCOS). I am unsure if you think I should do Phase 1 again but without meds or continue on Phase 2 without meds.
        Thanks Again. Rita.

        • Hi Rita – I really can’t advise on meds – you’d need to work with your doctor on that. I can advise on Phase 1 and I would give that another go – especially after reading the PCOS article and hopefully realising that carbs are not the friend of PCOS! Do watch your carb intake in Phase 2 as well for this reason
          Best wishes – Zoe

  • Swap sugar for Stevia and organic honey if you still have sugar cravings.
    Balance your pH with Lemon & Lime juice daily.
    Take Organic cold pressed coconut oil daily – 2/4tbsps – taste is good.
    Swap oats porridge for cereal.
    Make your own ice cream
    Eat lots of soft cheese, brie etc. Full cream milk and lots of pure organic butter.
    Check out “The Fat Revolution” by Christine Cronau of Brisbane, Qld. OZ!

  • Looking at table 1.2 the poor old chicken (some free ranging?) has lost out on being in the real food category as it lives in section 4 with bacon and ham and other processed meats. The amount of chicken eaten is more than the total of all listed carcase meat. I’d guess that categories 3 and 4 would actually be about equal in terms of diet % if chicken is counted as carcase meat.

  • I agree with the ALL NATURAL FOOD fylosophy, but would there be food enough if everybody would start eating it, Zoe?

    • Hi Johanna
      Good question and it’s something that Barry Groves was working on when he died (about this time last year so sadly). Here are a couple of thoughts for starters:
      1) But for fake food we would not have the population to feed that we do now. Had we stayed true to eating from the land we would have had the population that we could sustain.

      2) The early work that Barry did on this convinced him that it was possible to feed everyone with real food. See “The Political argument” section in this post ( and you could read more of Joel Salatin’s work. Every time I pass a rape field near where I live I can’t help but think – all that space to grow so many plants to extract oil – how inefficient must that be?! And then the oil has a bit of vitamin E and K (from memory), no protein, no minerals and none of the other vitamins – what’s the point!?

      3) We need real food to be able to sustain the population because fake food is killing it. Either fake food will win (as it is now) and this generation will die younger than parents from obesity and type 2 diabetes (and cancer, heart disease etc) or people will turn to real food and survive. It’s a living experiment, going on under our noses, with c. 1 billion people involved and most of them don’t even know it!

      Fake food has created a problem that it can’t get us out of.
      Happy reading!
      Very best wishes – Zoe


  • Interesting but just who were / are the target participants ? or was it one questionnaire and extrapolate the rest to suit.

    • Hi Dave – it explains this in 1.1 – first part of the text. “The Family Food Survey covers about 6000 households across the United Kingdom each year. Foods are reported at a detailed level and demographic patterns and trends are identified.”
      Best wishes – Zoe

  • “Real food can be found in rows 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11 and 13. This amounts to 436 calories – 22% of the total. 78% of what the UK eats is fake food.”

    Well, that’s almost perfect. Comes very close to the Paleo 80/20-rule: 80% cheat and 20% real food. Or maybe I got that the wrong way around.

    Seriously, very sad. And really it is just so easy, not to mention enjoyable, to eat real food only – so I stick to my own 100-rule.

  • 8 Sugar and preserves 63 3.2%
    9 Fresh potatoes 47 2.4%
    13 Fresh fruit 43 2.2%
    14 Processed fruit 49 2.5%
    15 Bread 204 10.2%
    16 Flour 37 1.9%
    17 Cakes, buns & pastries 73 3.7%
    18 Biscuits 107 5.4%
    19 Other cereal products 239 12.0%
    22 Soft drinks 45 2.3%
    23 Confectionery 79 4.0%
    24 Alcoholic drinks 58 2.9%

    TOTAL 52.7%

    That is the percentage I come to of carb/sugar based or nutritionally void foods that people eat on a daily basis. And the Govt & health bodies can’t work out why we are a nation of porkers!!!!!!

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