Fresh ideas for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough

Facts, figures & FAQs

There is much useful and interesting background information available on why it’s so important for businesses to offer customers healthier options on their menus. The following sections collect some of this information.


Many of the health problems we see today are a result of unhealthy behaviours from eating a poor diet and not doing enough physical activity. These health problems have already reached alarming levels. You can make a big difference with small changes to eat healthier and exercise more.

In Cambridgeshire approximately:

  • 64% of local adults are above a healthy weight and 22% are obese.
  • 7.4% of children aged 4-5 starting Primary School are obese. This doubles to 15% of 10-11 year olds.
  • A healthy weight in childhood and adulthood is important for preventing physical and mental ill health.

Eating a balanced diet is an important part of being healthy. The Eatwell Guide gives a clear idea of what children and adults should eat to achieve this healthy balance.

Eat at least 5-a-day! Fruit and vegetables are an important part of a healthy balanced diet. They are a good source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. Just over half (58%) of Cambridgeshire adults eat the recommended 5-a-day.

Choose higher fibre foods. Adults are recommended to have 30g dietary fibre a day but most adults only eat around 18g. Dietary fibre is analysed in the UK as Non-Starch Polysaccharides or NSP. Fibre helps to maintain a healthy digestive system. It can also reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and some cancers. Increase your fibre intake by swapping white bread for wholemeal or granary bread. Choose wholegrains like wholewheat pasta or brown rice. Include pulses such as beans, lentils or chickpeas. Have plenty of fruit and vegetables.

Eat more fish! It is recommended to eat two portions of fish a week, including one portion (140g) of oily fish such as salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines, trout and herring. UK adults do not consume enough oily fish, with an average weekly intake of 53g. Oily fish is high in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids which may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. It is also a good source of vitamin D.

Eat sugar less often and in small amounts. Major sources of free sugars* include sweets, chocolate and preserves. Also biscuits, cakes and sugary breakfast cereals. Sugar sweetened drinks are another main source. Too much free sugar increases risk of tooth decay and high energy intake (leading to weight gain). Sugary drinks in particular increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and weight gain.

The average adult consumes 12% of their total food energy from free sugars. This is more than twice the recommendation. SACN** recommends that no more than 5% of total energy should come from free sugars (no more than 30g free sugars a day for an adult).

Eat less saturated fat. Saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Major contributors to saturated fats in the UK diet include various meat products (processed meats), cereal products (e.g. cakes), full fat dairy desserts and butter, chips and chocolate. The guideline is that no more than 11% food energy intake should come from saturated fat; the average intake is 13%.

*Free sugars are defined as all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices.

**Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Government is advised on nutrition issues by a committee of independent experts which form the SACN.


National Family Food Statistics (UK, 2013):

  • Eating out accounted for 10% of total energy intake in 2013.
  • Energy intake from eating out was 14.7% lower in 2013 than in 2010.
  • Average energy intake from eating out was 220 kcal per person per day in 2013
  • Over half of energy from eating out is derived from a combination of meat and meat products, alcoholic drinks, sandwiches, potatoes (including chips) and Indian, Chinese and Thai dishes.
  • Purchases of soft drinks (not low calorie) are on a downward trend since 2010 and fell by 23% between 2010 and 2013. This was mirrored by an upward trend in low-calorie soft drinks with household purchases 36% higher in the same period.
  • In 2013 average household expenditure on all food and drink was £42.18 per person per week, £12.31 of this was spent on ‘eating out’.
  • In terms of money spent on eating out, it was 5.6% higher in 2013 than in 2010 at £12.31 per person per week for all food and alcoholic drinks.
  • Since 2010 there has been an 8% increase in salads purchased while ‘eating out’, possibly indicating that customers are interested in buying healthier options.
  • The UK currently is not close to reaching the Eat Well plate guidelines as a whole.
  • 22% of fat derived from eating out is from meat and meat products in 2013, followed by Sandwiches (15%) and then Indian, Chinese and Thai dishes (13%). “Meat-free Monday is a great message for sustainability, avoiding or reducing meat on Mondays can also work to improve our diet-prepared meat dishes are often high in fat and salt.”
  • Eating out accounted for 12% of total dietary sodium intake. Sodium intake from foods exceeds the maximum recommended level of 2.4 grams per person per day, equivalent to 6 grams ( just over a teaspoon) of salt. “Salt (sodium chloride) is the major source of sodium in the UK diet. It is the sodium in salt that can be bad for health. High salt intake contributes to the development of high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease and stroke.”
  • Soft drinks, confectionery, sugar and preserves contribute most to the total ‘free sugars’ dietary intake. 11% of calories from food and drink consumed when eating out comes from free sugars, such as soft drinks. Eating out purchases account for around 7.8% of total free sugars in the average diet. “The SACN* recommend that no more than 5% of total dietary energy (calories) should come from free sugars. Eating out purchases alone contribute more than that amount (7.8%), there is great room for improvement with reducing sugar through more healthier options when eating out.”

*Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

NOTE about Family Food survey: Family Food 2013 presents the results from the 2013 Family Food module of the Living Costs and Food Survey, covering household shopping and eating habits. Around 6,000 households in the UK are surveyed annually. Households record their expenditure on, and purchased quantities of, food and drink both for the household and that consumed outside the home. Nutrient intakes are derived from the purchase data.

NOTE about British Shopper Report: Future Thinking, the business intelligence research consultancy, conducts an annual independent study of current trends and future consumer habits of UK shoppers. The Shopper Barometer survey of 1,200 UK consumers revealed findings about people’s eating out habits for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with the majority of views centring on quality and value for money. Half of the survey’s respondents said that they regularly buy lunch outside of the home.


Where did the idea of Healthier Options come from?

Healthier Options was locally developed by a steering group with representation from Cambridgeshire County Council – Public Health, Cambridge City Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council and Fenland District Council. The programme evaluation was designed by the University of Hertfordshire.

Prior to Healthier Options a small test programme called ‘Healthier Catering Commitment Cambridgeshire’ was trialled in 2012. The insight gained from that trial has influenced Healthier Options.

Healthier Options has been developed using the Department of Health Responsibility Deal toolkit for Local Authorities. The idea of a healthy food initiative targeting food businesses is by no means a new concept; similar ventures have successfully been running all over the world.

When did Healthier Options first launch?

Healthier Options started as a pilot programme between July 2015 and March 2016. It was piloted in partnership with interested district councils who committed their time to delivering the project (the three councils interested were Cambridge City Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council and Fenland District Council). The pilot was independently evaluated by the University of Hertfordshire.

What did the Healthier Options evaluation find?

The University of Hertfordshire independently evaluated the pilot. Businesses, Customers and Healthier Options Ambassadors all participated in the evaluation. It concluded that schemes such as Healthier Options have some impact for increasing awareness of healthier eating for businesses and customers.

Businesses viewed Healthier Options positively and supported the rationale for the initiative. The evaluation found being involved improved businesses working practices, like using healthier oils. It also increased both businesses and customers awareness about the ‘healthiness’ of products. Some businesses felt it increased their publicity. All the businesses interviewed would recommend the initiative to other businesses!

What are the future plans for Healthier Options?

Following the positive indications from the pilot programme evaluation Healthier Options is continuing to work with local businesses. There will be a wider roll-out of the programme as we strive to get more businesses on board, reach more customers and encourage more ambassadors! Contact the Healthier Options Team today.

Making small changes can have great gains over the longer term - both for businesses and their customers