Crunch time for healthy eatingCredit crunch affecting our waistlines

11 March 2009

A new Which? survey has revealed that the credit crunch may be curbing people's efforts to eat healthily. 

Although four out of five people want to follow a healthy diet, the current economic climate is yet another barrier to good intentions.

Based on our survey responses, around 28 million UK adults would say that price has become more important when choosing foods since the financial downturn. Nearly three in five agreed that they would buy more fruit and vegetables if they were cheaper, and almost a quarter said that the economic crisis had made healthier eating less of a priority.

Government should make healthy eating easier

The research comes as Which? launches Hungry For Change?, a report that reviews our healthy eating campaign and looks at the efforts of UK governments and the food industry to help consumers make healthier choices over the last five years.

Despite an intense amount of debate about obesity and diet, 76% of people still think the government needs to take action to make it easier to choose healthier options. Consumers also want more action from manufacturers, retailers and caterers. 

Although there's still a lot to be done to tackle the growing obesity problem in the UK, there have been some positive initiatives, such as government-led salt reduction targets and improvements in the quality of school meals.

Credit crunch isn't helping

Speaking at the launch of Hungry for Change, Sue Davies, Which?’s chief policy adviser, said: ‘People want to make healthier choices, but it’s not easy. As the credit crunch bites, it’s important that government and industry aren’t distracted. They can’t be allowed to put the fight against obesity on hold.

‘We want to see a dramatic increase in the pace of action in all areas, so barriers to healthy eating can be removed and people can at last put their good intentions into practice.’

However, the British Retail Consortium said that Which? was wrong to say price was a barrier to people eating well: ‘Which? is actually discouraging customers from exploring healthy eating choices by pushing the myth that fresh fruit and veg are expensive. Customers should look beyond scare headlines, get into supermarkets and see just how affordable good fresh food is.’

Healthy eating tips

Which? suggests the following as ways to eat healthily through the crunch:

  • Buy food when in season
  • Plan your meals ahead to avoid costly impulse buys
  • Make double and freeze the extra
  • Try to make meals from scratch rather than buying processed foods
  • Find uses for your leftovers – see for suggestions
  • Look for the cheapest prices rather than the largest discount
  • Buy starchy foods in bulk
  • Regularly check the use-by-dates of the foods in your fridge, so you can use up items before they go out of date.
  • Which? also has advice on how to eat healthily on a budget.

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