Research by the University of Reading has found that couples with children have a poorer diet than those without. On average, statistics showed that childless couples ate 2kg more fruit and vegetables than families over a fortnight. The results formed part of a study that looked at the uneven distribution of unhealthy diets in the population. It also showed that regional variation in the demand for fruit and vegetables is pronounced, with the highest demand in London and the South East and the lowest in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Professor Richard Tiffin, Director of the Centre for Food Security at the University, said: “There are clear distributional implications for dietary health that arise from these patterns of consumption and also for the health of children. They suggest that targeted interventions are necessary in order to reduce the incidence of diet-related health problems in the future.” The study revealed that the presence of children in a household leads to a lower level of demand for fruit and vegetables and meat, and an increased demand for milk and dairy, cereals and potatoes.
The results also emphasised the role played by low incomes and socio-economic circumstances in poor dietary choices. Comparing an unemployed individual with an otherwise identical individual living in a household of two, the former consumed over 3kg less fruit over a period of two weeks. Similarly, for two identical households, a difference in income of 10 per cent can be expected to lead to a difference in demand for fruit and vegetables of around 500g.
Professor Tiffin said: “Our results imply that households which have a higher level of expenditure will tend to consume proportionately more meat and more fresh fruit and vegetables. Households in London and the South East have higher levels of fruit and vegetable consumption while it is reduced by the presence of children. “The dietary components that we have analysed have important implications for policy-makers in tackling diet-related chronic disease, which represents one of the most significant public health challenges of the 21st century.”
The paper, 'The demand for a healthy diet: estimating the almost ideal demand system with infrequency of purchase, by R. Tiffin (University of Reading) and M. Arnoult (Scottish Agricultural College), is published this month in The European Review of Agricultural Economics – http://erae.oxfordjournals.org/content/current
Researchers used the UK government's Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) for 2003-2004. Participating households voluntarily record food purchases for consumption at home for a two-week period using a food diary. The sample is based on 7,014 households in 672 postcode sectors stratified by Government Office Region, socioeconomic group and car ownership. It is carried out throughout the UK and throughout the year in order to capture seasonal variations.
Although most people think that healthy eating takes a long time, this isn’t actually the case.
Try these timesaving tactics for healthy eating – feed your family well–and with great taste, too:
Healthy Eating Tip #1. Make simple switches at the supermarket
It doesn’t take extra time to buy products such as whole grain cereal, fat-free milk, lean ground beef, baked chips, whole wheat bread or reduced-fat cheese. Ditto for high-nutrition snacks such as yogurt, raisins, frozen fruit juice bars, hummus (chickpea dip) and whole-wheat pita bread.
Healthy Eating Tip #2. Poke the produce
There’s a washed, cut and ready-to-eat fruit and veggie ready for every taste bud. Think about bagged lettuce and spinach, baby carrots, cut-up broccoli and cauliflower, cubed cantaloupe and pineapple. Of course, favorites such as apples, pears, oranges, bananas and grapes are fast fruit, too. For a switch, try new varieties–you often can try a sample right in the produce department.
Healthy Eating Tip #3. Swing by the salad bar
Sure you can use it to quickly assemble a salad. But think outside the bar! Save prep steps by picking up ready-to-go ingredients for tonight’s recipe. Try sliced onions, celery and carrots to start a soup or stew, or chopped lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese for taco-toppers. While you’re at it, pick up some fruit salad for dessert.
Healthy Eating Tip #4. Pad your pantry
Don’t get caught short. Stock up on often-used quick meal fixings such as canned beans and tuna, various pasta shapes, jars of spaghetti sauce and quick-cooking brown rice. Stash away some canned or frozen fruits and veggies, too. They’re always there when you need them and just as nutritious as fresh ones because they’re packed at the peak of freshness.
Healthy Eating Tip #5. Make it big on the weekend
Block out a few hours to make a daal, a hearty soup, a pasta dish or a casserole. When schedules heat up during the week, you and your family can just zap-and-eat.
Healthy Eating Tip #6. Use time-saving cooking techniques
Bake chicken instead of frying, or let a pot of bean soup bubble away on the back burner. Meanwhile, you can prepare the rest of the meal, get caught up on some household chores or just kick back and relax for a few minutes.
Healthy Eating Tip #7. Slip good nutrition into fast favorites
Make instant oatmeal with milk instead of water. Load sandwiches up with lettuce and tomato. Toss frozen mixed vegetables into canned soup. Top your favorite frozen cheese pizza with a rainbow of veggies like broccoli florets, chopped red peppers or sliced zucchini. (Tip: Toss veggies in a little vegetable oil first so they don’t dry out.)
Healthy Eating Tip #8. Demand double duty from big restaurant portions
Bring some home to make a quick start on tomorrow’s meal. For instance, slice up steak from your doggie bag to star in tonight’s beef and broccoli stir-fry.
Source: International Food Information Council