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More needs to be done to help people eat healthily during the cost-of-living crisis according to fresh research

Credit: Adobe

Slimming World

6 min read Partner content

With a new survey revealing that half of UK adults (51%) are finding it harder to make healthy food choices amid spiralling costs, Slimming World outlines how it is helping people through the challenging circumstances.

New research1 led by the UK and Ireland’s leading weight loss organisation Slimming World, has revealed that the cost-of-living crisis is making it more difficult to make healthy food choices.

The study of 2,000 UK adults reveals half of them report they’re finding it harder to make healthy food choices (51%) and one in three say they prioritise the cost of food over how healthy it is (31%).

Over a fifth of adults (23%) say they weigh more now compared to one year ago and 58% of these believe the financial crisis contributed to their weight gain.

Of those who gained weight, 38% felt this was due to comfort eating or eating more convenience food, 36% felt they gained weight because they were buying cheaper, less nutritious food and 31% say they’re less motivated to eat healthily because of the cost-of-living crisis.

Since the end of 2021, 80% of the 2,000 adults polled reported having concerns about rising food prices.

In the survey, conducted by OnePoll, over a third (37%) say their physical health has been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis and 46% say it has affected their mental health.

Dr Jacquie Lavin, 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. Some 38% of UK adults don’t feel they’ve picked up any advice, for example from friends and family, social media, supermarkets or colleagues, on how to reduce the cost of their food shop, and nearly half (47%) feel the Government isn’t doing enough to help people have a healthy diet during the financial crisis.

The survey also polled members of Slimming World’s 13,000 community weight loss group sessions and online programme2. More than half (56%) of members said they’ve found it easy to eat healthily on a budget since joining Slimming World and 83% say that sharing tips, support and advice at their weekly group helps with this.

Dr Lavin, who is a Registered Nutritionist, 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% of members now feel more in control when it comes to their food choices and 83% 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%) spend less, while for 34% it was the motivation and inspiration from other members. More than two thirds (69%) say they’ve received batch-cooking suggestions from fellow slimmers, 55% have received advice about bulking out meals with cheaper ingredients such as vegetables and lentils, and 52% report receiving low-cost recipe ideas.

Nearly half (47%) 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%), and for 39% switching to appliances which used less energy, like an air fryer or a microwave made a difference. For 28% freezing leftovers rather than wasting food helped to cut food bills.

Dr Lavin 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.”  

Mum Kerri Hayes, 42, has lost 11st and saved £100 a month on her food bills since joining her local Slimming World group in January 2022. Kerri, who lives in Walthamstow, East London, with her teenage son, says: “I joined Slimming World after being hospitalised with Covid over Christmas – I weighed over 22st at the time. That was a real wake-up call and I was so determined to lose weight and get my health back. I lost 7lbs that first week.  Before, I’d always struggled with my weight and would eat for comfort.  Being a single mum and a teacher, I was worried it might cost more to eat healthily to lose weight, it really hasn’t though. In fact, I’ve saved around £100 a month on my food bills as I’m not buying ready meals and takeaways.  If I think back to how I ate before joining, I wasn’t cooking, I was just putting convenience food in the microwave.  Now I’m cooking healthy versions of all my favourite foods which are nutritious and filling so I’m never hungry. I’m using up all the vegetables in my fridge which would probably have gone to waste before, too.”

Commenting on the findings from Slimming World,  Chair of the Food and Health APPG, Martyn Day MP, said: 

"The cost of healthy food is a pressure that has been exacerbated by the current cost-of-living crisis.

“People from all walks of life and backgrounds are looking for ways to cut costs when it comes to doing their essential food shopping and it is important that governments across the UK help them to make healthier decisions. They can do this by introducing initiatives.

“An example of this is the Scottish Government's Best Start Foods; a prepaid card that can be used to buy healthy food, including eggs, milk, fruit, vegetables and pulses throughout pregnancy until a child turns three years."

Meanwhile, a government spokesperson said:

“Obesity costs the NHS around £6.5 billion a year and is the second biggest cause of cancer, which is why we work closely with industry to make it easier for people to make healthier food choices.

“This work has already reduced the amount of sugar in breakfast cereals and yogurts by around 15% and levels of salt in food by 20%.

“We recognise the impact of rising prices and are providing significant support with the cost-of-living over this year and next - worth over £3,300 on average per household.”

1. Data relates to a nationally representative sample of 2,000 UK adults surveyed between 3rd and 6th March 2023

2. A self-selecting sample of 2,000 Slimming World members were polled via Slimming World’s member website between 3rd and 6th March 2023

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