I was like many people in thinking that healthy eating mainly depended on the consumer and the choices we make. But, after doing some research and working with experts who are actually researching the subject - I realised it's much more complicated than I thought!
I used to believe that if you bought smart and cooked from scratch, eating healthy could be cheaper than consuming convenience foods. Which is why I could never understand the attraction of stores such as Farm Foods or Iceland.
Of course, there are so many factors that determine how we shop for food, and there is no one true answer. It varies from person to person based on personal taste, community, culture, religion and societal pressures.
But cost is an undeniable driver, and after reading an article published in 2017 | 'The price of prevention: healthy diets and food prices', It was like a lightbulb went off!
The article revealed that it was 29% more expensive to eat 6 or more of the food groups recommended by Public Health England for good nutrition than it was to eat the junk food, which is aggressively marketed to us by the big food corporations.
This year I had the privilege attending a webinar hosted by The Food foundation. The webinar was to announce a report they had commissioned, 'The Broken Plate 2021', researching all the common factors contributing to the food choices (or lack of) that influence the unhealthy decisions so many of us are making each day.
The report stated that for the last decade healthy food per 1000 calories has bounced about between £7 and £8, while the equivalent volume of calories in less healthy foods has pretty much stayed stable at around £2.50.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is with this graph:
These statistics paint a truly dismal picture of the current state of the food industry in the UK, and go on to explain why we are seeing an explosion in childhood obesity and the associated life limiting disease that our children are now experiencing.
To complicate matters further, a recent study by University College London showed how disposable income plays a huge role when it comes to feeding one’s family, with those at or near poverty having 40% less money available per day than wealthier people.
It's little wonder lower income families are making the 'cost-effective choices' they know will fill their children and won't end up in the bin because of picky behaviour.
The question is; are these choices cost effective in the long run?
We know that diet related disease such as type 2 diabetes, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are on the increase affecting younger children which has a knock-on affect for their ability to learn.
So my question is...
With malnutrition costing the NHS around £20 billion a year on health and social care in England alone. Is it not time that the government started to rethink their 2.5% of advertising budget for fruit and veg?