“For me, the challenge is establishing a more sustainable and nutritious food supply chain for the UK,” said Professor Judy Buttriss, director general of the British Nutrition Foundation at a recent Leatherhead Food Research conference on nutrition.
The government’s former chief scientific adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, had highlighted the developing world’s increased demand for nutrient-rich diets, she said, adding: “There are some huge decisions that have to be made. We are not self-sufficient in food in the UK and we are bringing in a lot from other parts of the world.”
Promoting plant-based diets could be one way for the UK to secure its food supply chain, since there was increasing evidence that such a diet could provide the nutrients consumers needed.
The National Health Service’s ‘eatwell’ plate recommended a diet consisting of two thirds from plants, she noted. There was considerable potential to improve the amount of plant-based ingredients in the nationvs diet, given that recent data from the Office of National Statistics showed 1.2M people in the UK already considered themselves vegetarian.
Research from food trends agency The Food People predicted that the figure would rise by 50% over the next two years.
Britain’s obesity problems meant that consumers needed to reduce the amount of energy-dense foods in their diets, said Buttriss. “For all of us in nutrition, the bigger challenge is trying to encourage people to have diets that are less energy dense, so that they can consume more food to take in more [essential] nutrients [that are lacking],” she added.
Manufacturers had an important role to play in reformulating foods to make them healthier, Buttriss added. “Effective behaviour change is the goal and a lot in the food industry have a part to play in that.”