British diets in crisis as families can’t afford healthy food

Consumption of ready meals, high fat, processed and convenience food on the rise as sales of fruit and vegetables fall

Britain is headed for a nutritional time bomb as high levels of unemployment and recession wage freezes mean families can’t afford the rising price of food.

As a result, poorer families are increasingly turning to unhealthy, processed food that is perceived as cheap and filling come mealtimes.

Families are turning to cheap but unhealthy meals as the recession bites ©Rex

Sales of foods such as pizza, tinned pies and pot noodles have all seen increased since 2010, raising the consumption of fat, sugar and saturates in Brits’ diets.

According to figures from the Kantar Worldpanel, published in the Guardian, more than a million fewer people in the UK are getting their five a day, compared with November 2008.

The price of food has gone up by 32 per cent over five years and families on incomes of £25,000 or under are increasingly using their tight budgets to buy processed and frozen foods, rather than fresh meat, vegetables or fish.

Supermarket offers, more often associated with processed food, also encourage struggling families to buy more unhealthy options that they believe will go further. However, many of these offers were recently found by Which? to be misleading, with shoppers not actually making the savings they think.
 Fruit costs have gone up by 34 per cent since 2007 ©Rex

The UK already has problems with obesity, diabetes and other illnesses associated with bad nutrition. 

As food prices have risen by a third in five years and the average family’s weekly shopping now costs £76.83 a week, up £5.66 from just a year ago (according to consumer watchdog Which?), campaigners have called on the Government to tackle this ‘food poverty’ that threatens the nation’s health.

Staples such as common vegetables, eggs and orange juice have all seen steep rises. And though processed food has actually risen the most, 36 per cent since 2007, it’s still seen as the cheap, hassle free option.

Giles Quick, of Kantar Worldpanel, which looked into the shopping habits of 30, 000 households in the past three years said: “This problem affects many millions of homes. It is gradually creating a major social and public health problem. Health is not seen as a priority when budgets are tight.”

Has your diet changed because of the recession? Let us know on Twitter.