New research led by Slimming World, the UK and Ireland’s largest weight-loss organisation, has revealed that the cost-of-living crisis is making it more difficult to make healthy food choices.
The study, undertaken in March, reveals that 85 per cent of adults in Ireland report they’re finding it harder to make healthy food choices and nearly two thirds (64 per cent ) say they prioritise the cost of food over how healthy it is.
Two in five adults in Ireland (43 per cent ) say they weigh more now compared to one year ago, and 68 per cent of these believe the financial crisis contributed to their weight gain.
Of those who gained weight, 40 per cent said this was due to increased stress caused by the rise in the cost-of-living, 38 per cent felt they gained weight by to having to buy cheaper, less nutritious food, 38 per cent felt this was a result of comfort eating or eating more convenience food and 27 per cent say they’re less motivated to eat healthily because of the cost-of-living crisis.
Since the end of 2021, 94 per cent of the 500 adults polled reported having concerns about rising food prices.
In the survey, conducted by OnePoll, nearly two thirds (64 per cent ) say their physical health has been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis and three quarters (76 per cent ) say it has affected their mental health.
Dr Jacquie Lavin, registered nutritionist and special advisor on the science of weight management at Slimming World, says: “It’s well documented that the cost-of-living crisis is having a big impact on people’s buying habits. Without the right support, there is a very real possibility that the financial crisis could make it even more difficult for people to manage their weight and health.”
For those trying to eat healthily and manage their weight, the cost-of-living crisis presents new challenges. Eighty three per cent of adults in Ireland feel the Government isn’t doing enough to help people have a healthy diet during the financial crisis.
The survey also polled Slimming World members. More than half (56 per cent ) said they’ve found it easy to eat healthily on a budget since joining Slimming World and 83 per cent say that sharing tips, support and advice at their weekly group helps with this.
Dr. Lavin says: “The cost-of-living crisis is particularly challenging for anyone who is trying to lose weight, because financial pressures mean making healthy choices around food and drink can be more difficult. We can see from the member survey that receiving support and advice to make healthy eating choices is more important than ever when helping people to lose weight on a budget. In fact, since joining Slimming World, 90 per cent of members now feel more in control when it comes to their food choices and 83 per cent agree it is possible to lose weight on a budget.”
Knowing they weren’t alone and getting support from others on the same journey helped a third of Slimming World members (33 per cent ) spend less, while for 34 per cent it was the motivation and inspiration from other members. More than two thirds (69 per cent ) say they’ve received batch-cooking suggestions from fellow slimmers, 55 per cent have received advice about bulking out meals with cheaper ingredients such as vegetables and lentils, and 52 per cent report receiving low-cost recipe ideas like spicy tuna and pasta bake or rice and bean salad.
Nearly half (47 per cent ) of Slimming World members say planning their meals helped them to save money while they’ve been a member, cooking from scratch was key to saving for almost half (47 per cent ), and for 39 per cent switching to appliances which used less energy, like an air fryer or a microwave, made a difference. For 28 per cent freezing leftovers rather than wasting food helped to cut food bills.
Slimming World consultant Maura O’Connor adds: “Getting practical advice and tangible tried-and-tested tips from fellow slimmers on the same journey can be especially valuable when you’re finding it more difficult to eat healthily and lose weight or stay on track. Being part of a group where you’re facing the same challenges together and helping each other to stay motivated makes a real difference. It’s even better when this support is in a warm, friendly community particularly during such difficult times.”