Health

One in six young people eat fast food 'twice a day'

Beef burger Image copyright SPL

One in six young people eat fast food twice a day, according to a survey of the nation's eating habits.

The BBC Good Food Nation Survey found that most people ate fast food on average two days per week.

But in the 16 to 20-year-old category, one in six ate fast food at least twice a day, with one in eight among 21 to 34-year-olds eating as frequently.

The study of more than 5,000 people found that half of them thought "a meal isn't a meal without meat".

However, the same proportion were unaware of how much meat is a recommended daily amount.

The Department of Health advises an average of no more than 70g per day, which is the equivalent of two-and-a-half rashers of bacon.

But nearly one in four people thought the recommended amount of meat was at least double that.

The survey found that a fifth of men (21%), and 32% of 16 to 21-year-old men and women, ate meat at least three times a day.

The typical adult now eats meat at least twice a day and has only six meat-free days a month.

Christine Hayes, brand editorial director of BBC Good Food, said it showed it was "easy to be confused about the amount of meat one can enjoy while still eating a healthy, balanced diet".

She added: "Those who do eat meat can still cook a Sunday roast and eat the occasional steak when balanced with some meat-free dishes."

Image copyright Wales News Service

Social media influence

The survey found that two in five people aged 21 to 34-year-olds had posted a photo of a meal they had cooked, on social networking sites such as Instagram.

A third had posted a photo of a meal they had eaten in a restaurant.

And almost one in three have been inspired to cook a meal after seeing a photo on social media.

Also, 43% in that age group used the internet on their mobile phones to find a recipe while 26% will follow a video recipe on their phone.

The same proportion of people were influenced by YouTube when purchasing food.

Skipping meals

Among the other findings of the survey, more than a quarter of adults always or almost always skipped eating breakfast.

When it came to the 21 to 34-year-old age group, one in four said they missed breakfast most of the time.

This age group was also the one most likely to skip eating lunch.

However they were the generation most likely to exercise regularly, with 86% claiming they did so.

The 21 to 34-year-olds were also the age group most likely to be vegetarian (15%) or vegan (7%).

And they were also the age group least likely to be concerned about fat content when buying food (18%), while only half considered the issue of quality when choosing food.

The survey found only 6% of young people were satisfied with their current eating habits.


What foods do our bodies need to stay healthy?

The foods we need to eat can be divided into five separate groups.

Food Group Main nutritional benefits How much should we have each day?
Fruit and vegetables(Includes fresh, frozen, juiced, dried or tinned fruit and vegetables) Vitamins, minerals and fibre Five portions
Starchy foods(Includes bread, rice, pasta and potatoes) Energy, fibre, and vitamins and minerals A third of everything we eat
Meat, fish, eggs and beans(Includes fresh meat, fresh and tinned fish, eggs, nuts and pulses) Protein and vitamins and minerals Two to three portions (one portion is an egg or a serving of meat/fish the size of a deck of cards)
Milk and dairy foods(Includes milk, cheese and yoghurt) Protein and calcium Two to three portions (one portion is a small pot of yoghurt or glass of milk)
Foods containing fat and sugar(Includes cakes, biscuits and fizzy drinks) Energy A maximum of one portion (two biscuits or a small chocolate bar)

The average household spent £54.65 a week on food, about £20 on eating out, and £10 on takeaways, the survey found.

That was a fall from £57.30 a week spent on food shopping in 2015 - a difference of £137.80 annually.

The results of the survey also revealed that 49% of respondents ate fresh food less than once a day in an average week, with nearly one in 10 eating fresh food no more than once a week.


Sarah Toule, head of health information at World Cancer Research Fund, said the survey results were worrying.

"It's frightening that people, especially younger generations, are eating so much junk food loaded with fat, sugar and salt, but offers little nutritional value."

"Especially high in calories, junk food leads to unhealthy weight gain - which in turn increases the risk of 11 cancers later in life.

"It's also worrying that people don't know they're eating a dangerous amount of red meat," she added.

She called on the government to include stronger policies in its childhood obesity plan to improve things.

"Having junk food splashed across our television screens before the 9pm watershed only helps feed the unhealthy food environment we live in - especially in the eyes of children", she said


Favourite meals

The poll found that classic British dishes such as fish and chips and a full English breakfast had dropped out of the nation's top five favourite meals.

The top five meals in 2016, according to the survey, were:

  1. Sunday roast
  2. Curry
  3. Pizza
  4. Pasta
  5. Steak and chips

However among the 16 to 20-year-olds the top five meals were:

  1. Pizza
  2. Curry
  3. Pasta
  4. Burger
  5. Steak and chips

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