A worrying proportion of schoolgirls are not eating regularly because they are not happy with their weight, a survey by the Schools Health Education Unit has revealed.
The survey found that 38% of 10-year-old girls are not happy with their weight, and by the time girls reached 14 or 15 almost two thirds were unhappy.
Concerns about weight were less prevalent in boys with only 31% in these age groups (Years 6 to 10) wanting to lose weight.
Researchers asked more than 83,000 pupils in Years 6, 8 and 10 about their eating habits and how happy they were with their weight.
The findings revealed that almost a third of Year 10 girls had had nothing to eat for breakfast on the day they were questioned, and 24% of these had also missed lunch the previous day.
As pupils got older they were also found to eat fewer fruit and vegetables each day. On average, 41% of the boys questioned did not eat fresh fruit, salads or vegetables on "most days", compared to 31% of girls.
Forty per cent of pupils in Year 6 said they ate no protein "on most days" but around a quarter ate crisps, sweets or chocolate regularly.
The researchers found that pupils are less likely to exercise regularly as they got older. More than 70% of Year 6 girls exercised three time or more in the last week but only 46% of Year 10 girls.
Almost 20% of 14- to 15-year-old girls and 15% of boys of the same age had done no active sports outside school in the last 12 months.