3 in 5 sucked in by cheap junk food and sugary drinks: survey

Tuesday 11 October, 2016

Australians are being urged to steer clear of supermarket promotions on unhealthy food and drinks as new data reveals most of us fall victim to clever hard-to-resist specials, despite our healthy intentions. 

LiveLighter's Shape of Australia survey, released to coincide with World Obesity Day, analysed the shopping attitudes and behaviours of more than 2,000 Australians aged 25 to 49. The survey found that most people go to the shops with healthy intentions – two in three (65%) Australians usually pre-plan their meals, while half (51%) often compare products to see which is healthier.

Despite this, three in five people (60%) were likely to buy unhealthy food and drinks when they are on sale or promotion.

The most popular items for Aussies to buy when on sale were:

  • confectionary and chocolate (67%)
  • potato chips and savoury biscuits (66%), and
  • sugary drinks including soft drinks, cordial and energy drinks (65%).

Heart Foundation Victoria's Healthy Living Manager Roni Beauchamp said: "Junk food like chips, chocolate and sugary drinks are often cheap to buy and heavily promoted in the supermarket, making them seem like a smart financial choice. But in the long run these foods could come at a cost to your health.

"Regular consumption of high kilojoule food and drinks can lead to weight gain and a build-up of toxic fat around your organs, which increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

"Planning your meals, writing a shopping list and choosing the healthiest option by reading the labels are all great ways to ensure you buy what you need for a healthy diet, but it's also important to avoid buying unhealthy products just because they're on sale

"If you need more convincing, consider how junk food prices compare to healthier foods. One example is potato chips  they cost around $20 per kg, but bananas will only set you back around $3.50 per kg and are a great alternative if you're on the go."

The survey also found that people who visited the supermarket every day or several times a week were significantly more likely to buy unhealthy food and drinks that are on sale or promotion than those who went once a week (67% vs 54%).

LiveLighter Victoria Campaign Manager Alison McAleese said the best ways to avoid buying tempting treats is to visit the supermarket less often and when you do go, stick to the outer aisles.

"Steer clear of cheap promotions on junk food and drinks by sticking to the outer aisles of the supermarket where there is a plenty of fresh healthy food like fruit and vegetables," Ms McAleese said.

"Also consider shopping at local markets, greengrocers or butchers where you are less likely to find sales and promotions on processed, high kilojoule food and drinks."

LiveLighter's top tips for a healthier and more cost effective shopping trolley

  • Save money by making healthy snacks at home – they're better for you, too. Try these LiveLighter recipes: Banana and blueberry bread, choose your own adventure muffins, easy popcorn or garlic spiced oven roasted chickpeas.
  • Compare the true cost of food and drinks using the unit price on the shelf label (eg $ per kilogram or 100g)
  • Write a meal plan and a shopping list before going to the supermarket and make an effort to stick to it
  • Spend more of your food budget on healthy foods to save money at the checkout. To make the most of your food budget, check out our simple guide
  • Limit your visits to the supermarket each week. The less you go, the less you'll be tempted by promotions on high kilojoule food and drinks, reducing the amount you spend at the checkout
  • Avoid going to the supermarket on an empty stomach. You're more likely to buy unhealthy food you didn't plan on buying.

About LiveLighter

LiveLighter is a public health education campaign which encourages Victorians to lead healthier lives by changing what they eat and drink, and being more active. Delivered by the Cancer Council Victoria and Heart Foundation, the LiveLighter campaign is funded by the Victorian State Government. For more information visit www.livelighter.com.au 

Updated: 11 Oct, 2016