BNF survey reveals stress, anxiety, tiredness and boredom are the main causes of unhealthy eating habits in lockdown
A new survey commissioned by the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) has revealed that 63 percent of people in Britain attribute ‘boredom’, and 45 percent of people attribute ‘stress, anxiety and tiredness’ as being one of their main reasons for eating less healthily than usual during lockdown.* Nearly half of people (48 percent) say ‘not feeling motivated enough to eat well’ is one of their key reasons.
The survey, which has been conducted by YouGov, aims to explore how the changes to our daily lives resulting from the coronavirus outbreak have impacted our eating habits and activity levels since lockdown began on 23 March. The research surveyed 2,067 adults from across Britain, and reveals that 27 percent of respondents feel they have been eating less healthily during lockdown, 50 percent of people state their habits have not changed and 22 percent say they have been eating more healthily than usual.
The survey looked at the reasons why those who say they are eating less healthily are doing so and, as well as boredom, stress and lack of motivation, 30 percent of people claim that not being able to go to the supermarket as often is making it difficult for them to eat healthily.
The research has been conducted in parallel with the launch of BNF Healthy Eating Week @ Home, a virtual event, taking place 22-28 June, which aims to encourage people of all ages to take part in a range of key health challenges based on healthy eating, wellbeing and the benefits of physical activity, as well as trying out new healthy recipe ideas. The new event is an online alternative to the annual BNF Healthy Eating Week which normally takes place within schools, nurseries, universities and workplaces in June.
Analysing how our cooking and eating habits have changed since the lockdown began, the research suggests that 17 percent of people have been enjoying cooking more, 19 percent have been getting better at using store cupboard ingredients, and 23 percent have been trying new recipes. Just seven percent of people claim they have been getting more takeaways, and nearly three in 10 (29 percent) say they have been planning their food shopping in advance so they know what to buy and can waste less food.
Looking at our activity levels, with the closure of gyms and many people not being able to get outside as often before restrictions eased, 32 percent of people say they have been sitting down a lot more and 29 percent state they are less active than usual. However, a quarter of respondents have started going for regular walks, and almost 1 in 10 (9 percent) people have taken up running or cycling.
When asked about their priorities for health and wellbeing as the coronavirus restrictions are gradually lifted, 47 percent say they want to become more active and exercise more, 43 percent say they want to lose weight and 29 percent say they want to eat more healthily.
Sara Stanner, Science Director at the BNF said: “While the coronavirus outbreak has brought the importance of health to the forefront, the measures we’ve had to take as a nation to control the spread of the virus have made it challenging for many of us to eat well and keep active. With lots of us still at home more than normal, it’s easy to spend a lot of time sitting and to feel less motivated to eat healthily. It’s encouraging that, despite this, many people are now going for regular walks to keep active, are taking time to plan what they eat, and are trying new recipes. People are also clearly looking to improve their health as the lockdown measures ease, with getting active, losing weight and eating healthily all cited as key priorities.”
Roy Ballam, Managing Director and Head of Education at the BNF said: “Each year, BNF Healthy Eating Week promotes and celebrates healthy lifestyles in schools, nurseries, workplaces and universities. In light of all the challenges we’re facing, this year we’ve launched BNF Healthy Eating Week @ Home, which comprises seven daily health challenges that people can take part in at home, and in schools and workplaces where social distancing measures allow. Each challenge builds on a different area of health, fitness and wellbeing, and a variety of supporting resources and materials are freely available on the BNF website. We’ll also be running daily cook-a-longs to share some ideas for how to put together new healthy meals and snacks.
“We’ve been dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak for some months now and it may be getting to the point where we need a bit of encouragement and inspiration. Our aim is to provide everyone with support - from parents at home looking for activities to do with their children, to those who are working from home and need some new ideas to incorporate healthy eating into their day.”
*The research has been conducted by YouGov on behalf of the British Nutrition Foundation. 2,067 UK adults were surveyed between 3rd - 4th June 2020. Of the 2,067 respondents, 539 stated they have been eating ‘a little less healthily’ or ‘much less healthily’ during lockdown.
The 539 respondents who said they ate less healthily were then asked to state what has made it difficult for them to eat healthily, ticking all options that apply. Of the 539, 347 said eating out of boredom, 263 said not feeling motivated to eat well, and 248 said they were eating more due to stress, anxiety or tiredness.
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About the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF)
Translating evidence-based nutrition science in engaging and actionable ways
BNF was established 53 years ago and exists to deliver authoritative, evidence-based information on food and nutrition in the context of health and lifestyle. The Foundation’s work is conducted and communicated through a unique blend of nutrition science, education and media activities. BNF’s strong governance is broad-based but weighted towards the academic community. BNF is a registered charity that attracts funding from a variety of sources, including contracts with the European Commission, national government departments and agencies; food producers and manufacturers, retailers and food service companies; grant providing bodies, trusts and other charities. Further details about our work, governance and funding can be found on our website (www.nutrition.org.uk) and in our Annual Reports.
BNF Healthy Eating Week is developed by the British Nutrition Foundation and supported by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), Quorn Foods, Nestlé Cereals, ASDA, innocent drinks and Waitrose & Partners. BNF is grateful for the advice from the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust on the Be mind kind challenge.
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