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01st Jun 2022

Irish families spend twice as much money on treats as they do healthy foods

Trine Jensen-Burke



I am sure we have all felt the pinch lately when it comes to our grocery bills.

We all have to eat, however, it seems most Irish families are actually spending far more on treats and sweets than they are fruit and vegetables, according to new research.

Supermarket shopping data found that families with children spent on average €746 on groceries in the month to April 17 and of this €159 (21%) was spent on treats such as biscuits, crisps and chocolate. In comparison, just €49 (6.6%) was spent on fruit and €37 (5%) on vegetables.

And of course, we all want to feed our families healthy foods of nutritional value – but one of the problems is that while many staple foods (bread, milk etc) have increased in price lately, most sweet treats and crisps have not – a fact that might be pushing families to opt for unhealthier options when out doing their shopping.

Price hike on healthier foods

A healthy eating campaign from safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland has just been launched, and is encouraging parents to take steps towards a healthier lifestyle for their children. The Start campaign acknowledges, however, that recent food price increases are making it harder for families to fill a trolley with healthy options.

“While costs are rising for everyday foods like milk or bread, products like crisps and chocolate have not seen the same price increases,” Sarah O’Brien, national lead for the HSE’s healthy eating and active living programme, explains to the Irish Examiner.

She adds:

“This can make it harder for families when they are trying to ensure their weekly shop contains the right balance of foods. So while we know it’s difficult, we’re encouraging families to talk about the small changes they can make.”

According to the latest data from the Central Statistics Office, price increases for foods like crisps, confectionery and soft drinks ranged from 1.9% to 2.2% in the past 12 months. However, comparing this with increases ranging from 0.3% for vegetables, 1.8% for fruit, 4.7% for meat, 8.1% for bread and 8.9% for milk, makes it easy to see why many are struggling to go for healthier options.

“We know that parents and guardians want to do their best,” O’Brien explains. “

However, we also know that the environment we live in makes it hard for parents and children to go easy on the treats. They are all around us and the food industry invests heavily in the marketing and promotion of these products on TV, online, in-store, in public spaces and more.”

“Parents know the impact that the past two years have had on their family’s life and the pressures that they face, especially with household food budgets tightening,” said Dr Aileen McGloin, director of nutrition with safefood.

“Parents are trying to reduce treats but they need some support in achieving that… All families have different circumstances so it’s about choosing what works for you and your children and making a start with that to make healthier choices.”

The Start campaign is a five-year public health awareness campaign encouraging families to take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle for their children.