Supermarkets are offering too many promotions for fatty or sugary foods and so pushing us to eat them, campaigners say. The National Consumer Council went into all eight major chains and found over half of promotions were for unhealthy foods – double the level seen in 2006. It said the increase showed how far supermarkets would go to attract customers during the credit crunch. They presume that we are at our most vulnerable during times of economic woe, and take advantage by trying to make us binge! Remember, as all our personal trainers will try to advise you, you don’t have to be an angel all the time, just try to live by the 80/20 rule – eat well (wholefoods, unprocessed cereals, lean meats and fish, vegetables etc) for 80% of the time so that you can be bad for 20% of the time.
But the British Retail Consortium said the snapshot survey carried out in March was unrepresentative. The NCC went into Asda, Co-op, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose stores in Sheffield and assessed how much they were doing to help their customers eat healthily. It rated each on promotions, the salt content of own-brand foods, nutrition labelling, the prevalence of sweets at check-outs and the healthy eating information and advice available.
The number of promotions, such as two-for-one deals, had risen to 4,300, up 17% since the NCC’s 2006 report. But only 12% for were for fruit and vegetables, far below the 33% the NCC recommends. It also says health advice suggests just 7% of a person’s diet should be made up of unhealthy foods, compared to the 54% found. Morrisons were deemed the worst offenders, with 63% of their promotions featuring sugary and fatty foods, up from 39% from 2006. Sainsbury’s came top overall for the second time in a row, gaining praise for its progress on labelling and nutrition, and scoring highly on customer information. Tesco, despite having the biggest share of the market, was ranked joint fifth place, while Morrisons comes last for the fourth time in a row. Lucy Yates, who compiled the NCC report, said: “The volume of in-house promotions for fatty and sugary foods the supermarkets are all offering is staggering”.
“We expected to see evidence of big improvements since our last investigation, but we’ve been sadly disappointed. With so many of us buying our food in these supermarkets, their collective behaviour can heavily influence the nation’s eating habits. Despite their claims, the supermarkets all still have a long way to go to help customers choose and enjoy a healthier diet.”
All supermarkets had made good progress on reducing the salt content of their own foods. The Co-op, Tesco and Waitrose were praised for not having sweets at the check-out – but M&S scored zero for displaying a wide range of sweets and snacks at checkouts, although it says it intends to remove confectionery by January next year.
Some insider personal trainer tips here are: don’t go shopping when you are hungry, try to keep a positive approach to eating, plan ahead as much as you can, if the fridge and cupboards are full of good things you will be much less likely to eat bad ones as this will involve the effort of going out to get it first.
Have a look also on our “the knowledge” page for further nutritional help.