England’s low ‘Food IQ’ revealed in new research

by | Jan 3, 2013

Just returned from a sofa chat on ITV Daybreak studios with John Stapleton and Helen Fospero, and today we were talking about healthy living campaign Change4Life survey results on what consumers know about nutrition. Watch one minute of the interview.

Two thousand adults took the newly launched ‘Food IQ’ quiz, designed to highlight levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat in popular foods. The results show that the majority of people are largely unaware of what is in their food – with over three quarters (77%) of respondents’ Food IQs rating as low (scoring 50% or under).

I’m not surprised that people have low awareness. I wouldn’t expect the average person to know that a cheese and ham sandwich has more salt than a packet of crisps. We’re bombarded with different nutritional messages from websites, magazines, even celebrities; often this can be confusing.

And you need to be really label savvy to make healthier choices. Food labels need to be simpler. We don’t often realize that there’s hidden salt in bread or that a fruity cereal bar could be packed with sugar. Cakes & biscuits have hidden fat and sugar, and cured meats, cheese, & breakfast cereals can be high in salt.

Most people probably know that eating too much fat can make you put on weight, but they may not know which fats are bad and which are better, or that sat fats can raise their blood cholesterol.

When you’re on a tight budget it’s very tempting to reach for “Buy one Get one Free” promotions – and often these promos are on unhealthy items. Most people (84%) surveyed by Change4Life report they would like to be healthier, but taste and price are bigger drivers than nutrition. With today’s hectic lifestyle, people don’t have the time to cook a meal from scratch on a busy weekday, so a ready meal or takeaway is a quick-fix solution.

We need simple messages on front of pack – a red traffic light clearly showing that a food is high in salt, for example, makes it easy to shop for healthier foods in a hurry.


My top tips:

  1. Take a list with you to the supermarket, and shop on a full stomach – that way you’ll be less tempted by the freshly baked goodies or hot roast chicken!
  2. We need simple strategies that fit within our hectic lifestyle and budgetary constraints. Maybe we need to campaign that healthier food needs to be cheaper, tastier and more accessible. The government and manufacturers could make it more compelling for shoppers to buy whole grains, fruit, veg, and fish.
  3. A good idea is to look at nutritional info per 100grams – pick up two brands and choose the one which is lower in sat fats or salt /100g.
  4. Perhaps we need to think about how to make a ready meal healthier; team it up with some steamed frozen peas while your meal is cooking in the microwave, or open a can of sweet corn.
  5. You don’t need to spend lots of time or money:

– Try a bowl of porridge in the morning. You get calcium and protein from semi-skimmed milk, and oats help reduce blood cholesterol.

– Have a whole grain tuna and sweet corn sandwich with an apple for a balanced lunch.

– And for dinner whip up a quick chicken and veg stir-fry with noodles. It takes about 10-15 minutes and at least you know what’s in it!

(Thanks to those of you who sent me messages of positive feedback on Twitter about my TV interview).

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