Teenage girls eat substantially worse than teenage boys and older women, according to the preliminary results of the United Kingdom’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
The average teenage girl consumed 54 grams (1.9 ounces) of French fries or other fried potatoes per day, in comparison with only 40 grams per day among women between the ages of 19 and 65. Teenage girls consumed 14 grams of potato chips and other salty snacks each day, 22 grams of chocolate and candy, and 37 grams of cakes and cookies. In contrast, adult women consumed only 6 grams, 10 grams and 27 grams of these foods per day, respectively.
Teenage girls were getting an average of 13.1 percent of their daily calories from saturated fat, higher than both the percentage in boys (12.7 percent) and the recommended daily maximum (11 percent). When it came to sugar consumption, girls performed marginally better than boys but were still above the daily maximum, acquiring 15 percent of their daily calories from sugar.
Boys were getting 16.3 percent of their daily calories from sugar, in comparison with the recommended maximum of 11 percent.
Teenagers’ unhealthy habits do not stop at junk food. Twenty-nine percent of teenage girls reported smoking cigarrettes, as did 16 percent of teenage boys. When it came to alcohol, the disparity was even more striking: 11 percent of girls between the ages of 13 and 15 were drinking alcohol weekly, compared with only 1 percent of boys of the same age.
At the same time, teenage girls were not eating enough overall. In particular, they fell short on consumption of fruits and vegetables, averaging only 2.8 servings per day. Only 7 percent were eating the recommended five per day. Teenage girls also failed to eat enough iron-rich foods, placing themselves at risk of anemia.
“Broadly, teenage girls don’t eat enough,” said Alison Tedstone of the Food Standards Agency. “Overall, they are a stand-alone group of the population whose diets are poor.”