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Want to make your shopping trip healthier? Here's some advice

More than one-third of supermarket products on special offer are high in fat, sugar and salt.

Image: Shutterstock/photocritical

MORE THAN A third (35%) of products on special offer in supermarkets are high in fat, sugar and salt, new research has found.

This figure increases to more than half (56%) in convenience stores.

The research, which was commissioned by Safefood, looked at almost 70,000 food products on special offer. It comprised interviews with retailers and shoppers, accompanied shopping trips and a consumer survey.

Ireland has one of the highest rates of obesity in Europe – one in four adults here are classed as obese and one in four children are overweight or obese. 

The research found that price reductions (59%) and multi-buys (24%) are the most frequent type of price promotion. Some 85% of promotional offers were located in standard shopping aisles alongside regularly priced products, as opposed to end-of-aisle or special promotional stands.

Dr Marian O’Reilly, Chief Specialist in Nutrition at Safefood, noted that people who took part in the study said they use promotional offers to help manage the household budget.

However, she added that previous research by Kantar “showed that the average household with children spend more on ‘treat’ foods (19% spend) than on fruit (10%) and vegetables (7%)”.

The new research also showed that shoppers wanted to see fewer promotions on things like biscuits (70%), confectionery (69%) and sugary drinks (66%), and more frequent promotion of fruit and vegetables (92%), fresh meats (80%) and fish (70%).

“These results highlight that people really don’t want to be tempted by unhealthy food offers, they’d much rather see healthy foods, and particularly fruit and vegetables, on special offer,” O’Reilly stated.

Advice 

The research was launched to coincide with Safefood’s new Transform Your Trolley campaign as part of their sponsorship of RTÉ’s Operation Transformation. 

The campaign includes practical tips to help people buy healthier foods: 

  • Plan your meals before you go shopping, this can save both time and money
  • Make a shopping list, this will help you avoid impulse buys, especially for unhealthy snacks and treats that can be high in sugar, fat and salt
  • The majority of foods on promotion in supermarkets are unhealthy – you can avoid those by skipping certain aisles and end-of-aisle shelves 
  • If you know that pester power (children looking for treats while shopping) is an issue, shop alone or with a friend if you can
  • Don’t shop when you are hungry – your hunger will be fighting all your good intentions to stick with healthy choices
  • For the same reasons, try to avoid shopping when tired or stressed
  • Read food labels – this can help you understand what’s healthy and what’s not,  building up knowledge over time 
  • Make sure you include plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain and brown carbs over white, and watch out for treats; keep the portions small and have treat-free days

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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