The Family Food Survey, published yesterday by the UK's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), asked one person over the age of seven in 6,927 households in the country to record the food they bought over a fortnight.
The results for 2002-2003 show a good increase in fruit consumption - up 4.3 per cent to around 4 portions (including fruit juice) per person each day - but a decline in purchasing of certain vegetables appears to be hitting intake of beta-carotene, which dropped almost 3 per cent last year.
And while there were significant decreases in intake of saturated fats and salt, levels of beta-carotene and vitamin E are also going down.
The results seem to support a growing need for supplementation of certain nutrients as British diets favour convenience foods and eating out.
Eating out, making up 9 per cent of all energy and nutrient intake, has important implications for intake of vitamins and minerals. The amount of calcium, iron, fibre, vitamin B12 and vitamin D gained from food eaten in restaurants is less than that gained from food prepared at home, showed the estimates. Unsurprisingly, food eaten out also provides a higher proportion of energy from fat than household food.
A look at the long-term trends of the survey shows that many minerals have fallen in line with falling energy intake among UK populations.
Calcium from household food dropped 24 per cent between 1975 and 1991. "Since 1992, calcium intake levels have varied between 880 and 970 milligrams per person per day with little sign of an increasing or decreasing long-term trend," notes the report.
This is backed up by the yearly decline in consumption of milk and cream, important calcium sources.
Iron intake from food eaten at home is down 15 per cent since 1975 to an average 11.1mg per person per day in 2002-03. By contrast there has been little change in zinc and magnesium since figures were first collected in 1992.
The survey also revealed that consumption of potatoes fell by 4.4 per cent during the 2002-03 period, likely due to the impact of the Atkins diet, with its estimated 3 million fans in the UK last year. However the vegetable's popularity has been going down over the years, and is 50 per cent lower than 1975.
As expected, there were financial as well as regional variations in food and drink consumption.
Those in top 20 per cent income bracket devoured the most cheese, vegetables, fruit and alcohol and the least milk, cream, fats, sugar, potatoes, cereals and confectionery.
Correspondingly, those in the lower income brackets ate more saturated and monosaturated fats and carbohydrates. People in Scotland were shown to consume the highest amount of soft drinks.