Majority of Scots don’t follow healthy eating recommendations

While most people in Scotland are aware of healthy eating recommendations, the majority do not follow them, says Food Standards Scotland (FSS).

The agency has published the results from its second Food in Scotland Consumer Tracking Survey, which shows that on average, Scots recognised eight out of 11 healthy eating statements based on the principles of the Eatwell Guide, but only two are consistently followed.

These are: a third (32%) of consumers regularly drink six to eight cups of fluid a day on average; but the recommendation most widely adhered to is avoiding the use full fat butter and cream when cooking (48%).

Concern around the amount of sugar in food and drinks is increasing since FSS conducted its first Food in Scotland Consumer Tracking Survey in December 2015. The majority of Scots (79%) believe that sugary drinks such as colas or lemonades should be avoided, however participants also claimed that they drink sugary drinks at least once a day or more (41%).

A significant proportion of Scots feel that they have clear advice on what constitutes a healthy balanced diet (84%) and participants also agreed (85%) that an unhealthy diet could lead to health problems. There was also an increase in the level of concern about people in Scotland having a balanced diet since the publication of FSS’s first survey (up by nine percentage points since 2015).

Participants felt that there are some significant barriers to making healthier choices, and the survey highlights that three quarters of Scots agree that the most convenient food to buy outside of the home is usually the least healthy (74%). Price promotions were also highlighted as an issue, with just over two thirds (68%) thinking that unhealthy foods seem to be on price promotion more often than healthy ones.

There is also a significant desire among people in Scotland for more regulation of ingredients in food as a way of improving diet (75%).

Heather Peace, head of nutrition, science & policy at FSS, says, “This tracker survey helps explain why we are so far from meeting our dietary goals in Scotland, as most people say that they don’t follow healthy eating advice. What is clear is that there isn’t a quick fix to the diet related problems in Scotland and that responsibility does not just fall on the individual to make the right choices; it falls on government and industry too to make sure that we all act together to tackle obesity and poor diet in Scotland.

“It is encouraging to see that the public are prepared to accept government intervention in terms of reformulation of ingredients, and early indications are that industry are prepared to work with us as well.”

The survey, conducted between 28 June and 6 July 2016, is conducted biannually among a representative sample of the Scottish population to track changes in knowledge, behaviour and attitudes in relation to food.

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