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Healthy eating

Evaluating healthy eating programmes
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A healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining health and wellbeing. Previously programmes have focused on eating 5-a-day and providing fruit and vegetables in schools. Most recently, the Wellbeing programmes also had a strong focus on healthy eating.

Our learning on healthy eating projects has shown us that:

  • Children living in areas of high deprivation tend to consume fewer fruits and vegetables.
  • Children eat significantly more fruit and vegetables when they are provided free of charge in school.
  • Black and minority ethnic groups tend to eat more fruit and vegetables.
  • Women and girls are more likely to eat and be aware of the benefits of eating fruit and vegetables.
  • People from deprived backgrounds are more likely to eat more fruit and vegetable as a result of programme interventions.
  • Enjoying healthy food makes people feel more enthusiastic about cooking and eating fruit and vegetables at home.
  • Providing fruit and vegetables is good for improving diets in the short-term, but more research is needed on how to have a lasting impact on diet.

What works

According to our learning, when creating a healthy eating project, it is important to consider the following:

  • Project ownership
    As participation is voluntary this helps increase the sense of ownership and control, and peer-led activities help make sure the content and the way the information is shared is suitable for the target audience.
  • Intervention length
    Longer term interventions help develop and reinforce healthy eating behaviours; whereas short-term interventions (typically four weeks) work well in engaging families and young people with chaotic lifestyles.
  • Partnership working
    It’s important to create partnerships between local health agencies, commissioners and community groups.
  • Activity types
    Participants like activities involving cooking and tasting new foods, especially foods they have grown themselves. It is important to provide clear, simple recipes that only use a few ingredients and to demonstrate how healthy eating can be achieved on a budget. Activities should also be culturally appropriate.
  • It not just about food
    Addressing all the aspects which play a part in developing a healthier lifestyle can be particularly effective at increasing healthy eating. This can include adding exercise into daily routines, cooking for enjoyment, improving mental health and supporting weight management.
  • All ages
    It’s important to target both adults and children through a range of approaches. This helps to make sure the same messages are shared at school and at home. Children and parents enjoy cooking together and other group activities that promote social interaction and learning.

These elements should be considered in addition to the ten key success factors of a wellbeing project

This page combines our learning from across a variety of programme evaluations. For copies of the individual programme reports, visit the Health and Wellbeing publications page.