Ireland’s favourite dinners revealed – and they’re not quite what you’d expect

Bord Bia report suggests we might be kidding ourselves about healthy eating habits

Red meat is the most popular meat consumed, featuring in 29 per cent of adult meals. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Red meat is the most popular meat consumed, featuring in 29 per cent of adult meals. Photograph: iStock/Getty

 

Irish people may be fooling themselves into thinking they are eating more healthy food than is actually the case, with red meat still dominating the Irish dinner and plant-based options consumed less frequently than people say, according to a study published on Wednesday morning.

The traditional dinner of meat and two veg remains the most popular meal for Irish adults, with chicken dishes and sauce-based pasta finishing in second and third, the research into Ireland’s eating habits published by Bord Bia suggests.

It has also found that a majority of Irish dinners now involve an electronic device such as a television or a smart phone.

There is some positive news; Irish people now eat significantly less desserts with their evening meal and adults consume less wine than they did in 2011.

All told, the meat and two veg option makes up 11 per cent of all adult evening meals across a seven-day period, with chicken and pasta accounting for 10 per cent each.

Red meat is the most popular meat consumed and it features in 29 per cent of all adult meals. Chicken follows at 21 per cent.

While 23 per cent of people claimed to have prepared more vegan meals at home over the last 12 months, the reality was somewhat different with just 1 per cent of evening meals prepared over the snapshot seven-day period proving to be entirely plant-based.

Incidence of fish eaten is at 7 per cent although it does climb to 11 per cent on Fridays, demonstrating it is still a popular evening meal choice and reflecting a echo of more religious times past.

Dairy is a key part of evening meal, with 17 per cent of all meals containing cheese.

Pasta with sauce meals, such as spaghetti bolognese, were the number one meal type eaten by children, accounting for 14 per cent of all evening meals among that cohort.

Potatoes remain at the heart of many evening meals on 28 per cent with consumption increasing significantly for the over-45s.

Almost 3 in 10 of all evening meals include bread while just over three quarters of grocery shoppers use Irish produce wherever possible, with the perception that it is worth paying more significantly higher than 2011.

There has been an 8 per cent decline in dessert incidence with evening meals for adults since 2011 – down to 16 per cent in 2019. Over 20 per cent of children’s evening meals include a dessert, but this has fallen by 10 per cent since 2011.

Tap water is the most common drink accompaniment for both adults and children while both milk and wine are consumed less than they were in 2011 by adults. Meanwhile, children’s milk consumption with evening meals has also fallen by 11 per cent since 2011.

Solutions

Busier lives and seeking convenience solutions appear to be influencing Irish evening mealtime habits and smaller meals and snacks are changing evening meal dynamics, with 17 per cent of all evening meals no longer the main meal of the day.

There has been a 12 per cent decline in regular scratch cooking among Irish adults, from just over 4 in 10 adults in 2011 to 3 in 10 in 2019.

The study found that there is no longer a “one size fits all” approach to evening meals, with a significant rise in the number of households preparing different meals for different people since 2011.

In keeping with the fracturing of the traditional evening meal, one in 10 are now eaten in different rooms and more than seven in 10 meals involve a device such as a television or smart phone being active.

Takeaways and home deliveries account for 9 per cent of all evening meals eaten over the course of a week, rising to 15 per cent on a Friday or Saturday.

Chinese food is the most popular takeaway choice in Ireland, while pizza is the most popular home delivery choice.

Health and wellness considerations are driving consumer behaviour, with more than 80 per cent of people placing a high level of importance on eating a balanced diet. Some 40 per cent of adults cited awareness of the food they eat and the impact it can have on physical and mental wellness as having a great deal of influence on evening meal choice.

Ethical considerations were also influencing consumer behaviour, with almost 3 in 10 people saying that making choices that are more positive for the environment has a great deal of influence on evening meals.

To examine what Ireland is eating for dinner Bord Bia pored over 7,700 food diary entries from members of the public with the results showing a divergence between what people eat and what they say they eat.

The study, designed to better understand the changing dynamics of people’s evening mealtime habits, involved a nationally representative online survey of more than 1,000 Irish consumers who charted their evening eating habits, resulting in a sample of 5,925 adult and 1,841 child evening meals collected over seven consecutive days.

“When it comes to evening meals, this comprehensive study captures a clear intent to make healthy and socially responsible food choices and people believe they are regularly doing so,” said Bord Bia’s consumer insight specialist, Grace Binchy.

“However, as a growing ‘time poor’ nation, life gets in the way. There is a tendency for people to remember the choices they make as being better than they were and their original intention is not always reflected in their actions.

“As our lives grow increasingly busier, the study captures a move away from the traditional evening meal as we know it,” said Ms Binchy.

“With nearly half of adults claiming to enjoy cooking, but only when there is enough time available to do so, convenience emerged as an extremely important consideration when choosing what to eat in the evening.”

Top 10 adult evening meals

1. Meat and two vegetables

2. Chicken dish (for example roast chicken)

3. Pasta with sauce (for example spaghetti bolognese)

4. Italian foods (for example pizza or lasagne)

5. Diner style favourites (for example burger or steak and chips)

6. Fish dish (for example fish bake or fish and chips)

7. Light meal (for example toasted sandwich or beans on toast)

8. Chinese/oriental meal

9. Stew or casserole

10. Indian dish (for example chicken tikka masala, korma, curry)

Top 10 children’s meal types

1. Pasta with sauce

2. Chicken dish

3. Meat and two vegetables

4. Italian foods

5. Diner-style favourites

6. Stew or casserole

7. Fish dish

8. Chinese/oriental meal

9. Indian dish

10. Light meal