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Diet and nutrition: progress towards targets

A review of food consumption and nutrient intakes from national surveys in Scotland: Comparison to the Scottish dietary targets looked at national dietary and health surveys from 1996 onwards and compared the results against the Scottish Dietary Targets (SDTs), with re-analysis where appropriate. It also examined the usefulness of the surveys in terms of methods used, presentation of results, and strengths and weaknesses for monitoring diet and nutrition in Scotland.

The report found that none of the 2005 dietary targets had been met. Total fat as a source of energy fell from around 40% to 38% , but this was not sufficient to meet the 2005 target (35%). Also, these findings were likely to be as a result of an increase in the proportion of energy from NMES (non-milk extrinsic sugars), rather than of the desired increase in consumption of complex carbohydrates (see total complex carbohydrate and NMES targets).

According to the review a number of food and nutrient intakes had shown no/little change since 1996:

  • daily consumption of fruit and vegetables - average intake remaining at around 246 grams a day, whilst the target was a minimum of 400 grams per person per day. The quantity of fruit and fruit juice and, in particular, bananas consumed had, however, increased across all types of fruit
  • saturated fatty acids - average intakes had fallen from about 15.6% to 15.2% of food energy, whilst the target was to reduce this to no more than 11% of food energy
  • total complex carbohydrates - the target was to increase intake by 25%, but intake remained at around 141g per person per day
  • weekly consumption of oil-rich fish - the target was to double consumption from 44 grams per person per week, but consumption remained at around 32g. Note: revised baseline figure is due to exclusion of canned tuna (see also Table 1, below)
  • consumption of breakfast cereals - the target was to double consumption from 18g per person per day, but consumption levels were unchanged.

Of particular concern were where trends in food consumption had moved in the opposite direction to that of the 2005 target:

  • intakes of non-milk extrinsic sugars (NMES) (one of the causes of tooth decay) had risen rather than being held constant (target for adults) or being reduced (target for children)
  • potato consumption had fallen by 25% rather than increasing by 25%
  • bread consumption had fallen by 12% instead of increasing by 45%, with the consumption of brown/wholemeal bread falling by 25%

The Scottish Government recently published Food and Drink in Scotland: Key Facts 2012 and compared results from the Expenditure and Food Survey and the Living Costs and Food Survey against the Scottish Dietary Targets.  The results from this publication and from the previous publication looking at the National Food Survey in 1996 and the Expenditure and Food Survey in 2003/04 have been presented in table 1.

Table 1. Summary of progress towards the Scottish Dietary Targets: Results from the National Food Survey (NFS) 1996, the Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) the Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF)

Target Food / Nutrient  Target  NFS EFS




Statistically significant

change between

2001 and 2009

1996  2003/04  2001 2006 2007 2008 2009
Fruit & Vegetables 

More than 400g per day 

249g  246g  239g  256g  270g  264g  257g  ↑ 
Bread (all types) 

154g per day 

133g  116g  101g  93.5g  90.4g  85.9g  87.3g  ↓ 

Brown / Wholemeal Bread

More than 77g per day

26.5g  19.7g  16.1g  21.0g  21.1g  21.2g  19.2g  ↑ 

Breakfast Cereals (all types) 

34g per day 

18.2g  17.7g  19.5g  19.2g  22.2g  21.5g  23.2g  ↑ 

Oil Rich Fish1 

88g per week 

35.1g  31.8g  28.2g  37.1g  31.7g   31.8g 29.5g  ↔ 

White Fish 

No decrease (figures per week) 

107g  75.2g  92.9g  92.7g  94.5g  89.1g  89.5g  ↔ 


35% of food energy or less 

39.6%  37.6%  39.2%  39.1%  39.0%  39.3%  39.3% 

Saturated Fat

11% of food energy or less 

15.6% 15.2%  15.7%  15.9%  15.4%  15.5%  15.3%  ↓ 


Adults – No increase,

Children - < 10% 
13.6%  16.7%  15.6%  15.2%  15.1%  15.1%  15.0% 


Total Complex Carbohydrates

155g per day

143g  141g  138g  133g  140g  137g  138g  ↔ 

1Canned tuna is not considered an oily fish as the long chain omega-3 fatty acids are lost in the canning process for tuna. Other canned oily fish are not affected in the same way.

Note: there are differences between the baseline figures published in the SDAP (derived from NFS 1989-1991) and the revised figures for 1996, calculated from the NFS 1996.

Another recent analysis of the Expenditure and Food Survey, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland and the Scottish Government, assessed progress towards the FSA and SDTs using data from 2001 to 2006. The Estimation of food and nutrient intakes from Expenditure and Food Survey purchase Data in Scotland 2001-2009 report showed small increases between 2001 and 2006 but little change between 2006 and 2009 for consumption of fruit and vegetables (2001=239g; 2006=256g; 2009=257g). A decrease was observed with the consumption of brown/wholemeal bread (2001=16.2g; 2006=21.0g; 2009=19.2g) and oil rich fish (2001=28.2g; 2006=37.1g; 2009=29.5g) and there was no progress towards the nutrient based targets for total fat.  However, there was a small but signifcant decrease seen in the consumption of saturated fat and NMES between 2001 and 2009 but intakes continue to be much higher than the SDTs. It was concluded that the FSA and SDTs will not be met by end March 2010.

Analyses by Deprivation and Urban Rural Classification

The aforementioned reports have found that consumption of foods targeted for increased consumption (fruit and vegetables, brown/wholemeal bread, breakfast cereals and oil-rich fish) is significantly lower in the most deprived groups of the population. In addition, the percentage of energy consumed from added sugar is significantly higher in the most deprived groups with the gap in sugar consumption from sugary drinks widening between 2008 and 2014 betwen the most and least deprived, especially in women. See Table 2.

In addition, the percentage of energy consumed from added sugar is significantly higher in the most deprived groups. Meanwhile, analysis by Urban Rural Classification showed that remote rural localities had the highest consumption of these foods. 

Table 2. Consumption of non-diet soft drinks once a day or more, percentage of females aged 16 years and over (age-standardised) from 2008 to 2014, by area deprivation (SIMD). Results from the Scottish Health Survey 2014, Table 9.6 in chapter 9 Inequalities in health risks.

SIMD quintile  2008 2010 2012 2014
5th (least deprived) 19 21 18 15
4th 18 22 18 21
3rd 20 17 18 25
2nd 25 28 23 25
1st (most deprived) 26 26 33 36


Please note: If you require the most up-to-date data available, please check the data sources directly as new data may have been published since these data pages were last updated. Although we endeavour to ensure that the data pages are kept up-to-date, there may be a time lag between new data being published and the relevant ScotPHO web pages being updated.

Page last updated: 12 September 2017

© Scottish Public Health Observatory 2014