The monotony of eating the same range of foods could be taking its toll on the UK’s nutritional intake. According to new research, the majority of British people eat the same foods at breakfast and lunch every day, and nearly half (48%) rely on a small bank of evening meals such as spaghetti bolognaise and chicken tikka masala. In fact, 68% of people routinely buy the same foods from the supermarket each week, supporting the stereotype that the British really are creatures of habit.
The survey of 3,000 adults conducted for PAGB, the UK trade association for over the counter medicines and food supplements, has revealed a distinct lack of variety in British diets and a marked preference for a ‘beige palette’.
“Eating the same type of food every day is not only boring but could lead to deficiencies in certain nutrients if the foods are lacking in key nutrients,” comments Helen Bond, State Registered Dietitian and member of the British Dietetics Association (BDA). “Not eating a variety of food groups, including lots of fruit and vegetables can also compromise the immune and digestive systems and, ultimately, long term health.”
Cereal, toast and tea were voted the most popular breakfast options, while sandwiches came out on top for lunch, making up over half (51%) of all British lunches. For dinner, nearly half (48%) of participants consumed pasta at least once a week, followed by chips (38%) and pizza (32%). A quarter of respondents also indulged in fish and chips or other takeaways on a weekly basis. The findings suggest that despite the wide variety of foods available in the UK, the vast majority of people (91%) regularly eat meals dominated by the colour beige.
Helen remarks: “Often the first area to be compromised when we are busy, watching our wallets or feeling stressed is our diet. Hectic lifestyles can lead to a reliance on convenience foods such as mass produced and beige coloured white pasta and pizza, which often lack essential vitamins and minerals. The combination of a stressful modern lifestyle and often a nutrient poor diet makes the inclusion of a food supplement to support our nutritional needs a welcome addition to our daily routine.”
Helen adds: “During times of stress, many people crave an instant feel good boost from stimulants such as sugar, caffeine, nicotine or alcohol. While these may provide some immediate relief they actually mask our symptoms which can lead to bigger problems. Feeling stressed makes it more difficult for our bodies to absorb vital nutrients found in the food we do eat, particularly the B vitamins and vitamin C, which support our bodies in times of stress.”
The average British evening meal normally includes two vegetables – carrots, broccoli and onions top the chart. However, 1 in 20 do not eat any and 1 in 5 only manage one. Whilst the most popular vegetables all contain valuable nutrients, eating local and seasonal options at their peak will mean they have the most flavour and nutritional value.
Similarly, when it comes to fruit, the most popular are bananas followed by apples and grapes. Helen says: “Traditional selections all provide a good source of vitamins and minerals that keep the body healthy but selecting more exotic varieties such as pineapple and mango can revitalise your taste buds and deliver a host of different nutrients at the same time.”
Nearly a third (31%) of UK adults surveyed expressed concerns that their current diets are not meeting their nutritional needs, rising to half of 18-23 year olds, and a concerning 1 in 10 admitted to never eating a healthy balanced diet. However, over a third (36%) of respondents are proactive and support their diet with food supplements such as multivitamins or fish oils.
Psychology lecturer, Dr Mike Green from Aston University in Birmingham remarks: “We seem to have a genetic preference for high fat, high starch and high sugar processed foods many of which fall into the beige food category. While these high carbohydrate foods will stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain which helps to moderate moods and keep you feeling happy, levels can drop soon after and when serotonin levels are continually impaired; this can potentially lead to depression, anxiety and sleep problems.
“Incorporate a balance of natural food groups to boost and to maintain the body’s serotonin levels,” suggest Mike. “Make the time to properly plan meals to help reduce reliance on carbohydrate rich foods and snacks that have little nutritious value and consider supporting your diet with a multivitamin and mineral food supplement.”
Helen concludes: “Whilst supplements should not be considered a substitute for a healthy and balanced diet there is clear evidence that many of us simply do not manage to achieve the recommended intake of many nutrients which are vital for optimal health and wellbeing. Food supplements in recommended amounts offer a proven means to boost intakes of essential nutrients and prevent nutritional deficiencies.”
Notes to editors
Food supplements are not designed to replace a healthy balanced diet but rather make a valuable contribution to supporting a varied and balanced lifestyle.
For further information relating to this survey or to interview Helen Bond or Dr Mike Green please contact:
• Claire Anderson on 0208 939 1251 or firstname.lastname@example.org
• Phyllida Price on 0208 939 1273 or email@example.com
• Visit www.pagb.co.uk for more information on PAGB
• Visit www.hsis.org for the A-Z of food supplements and associated scientific research
• Twitter: #beigefood, @VirgoConsumer
Reference: Colour palette survey, 3000 respondents (UK adults), February 2012
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