Snacks make up fifth of supermarket ‘weekly shop’

Study of family supermarket shops found €1,037 a year spent on snacks and treats

The research was published to promote healthy eating.

The research was published to promote healthy eating.


Families in Ireland spend significantly more on junk food than on fruit and vegetables a damning new report into family shopping habits has revealed.

The report, jointly published by Safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland, warns the empty calories found in processed food are leading to dangerously high levels of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

It indicates that 19 per cent of the average weekly food shop goes on highly processed “treat” foods like crisps, chocolates and sweets.

By contrast only 10 per cent of the weekly spend goes on fruit and just 7 per cent is spent on vegetables.

Families with children spent on average €1,037 last year on highly-processed food like crisps, chocolate and sweets and just €521 on fruit and only €346 on vegetables, according to the research.

Chocolate and sweets made up for the largest portion of the treat spending pie with €228 on this category.

On €199, sugary drinks was in second place while the spend on biscuits was put at €161 and the amount of money spent on crisps was €129.

The research only includes supermarket shopping trips and does not account for purchases in outlets such as garage forecourts, cafes or cinemas, suggesting that the spend on treats is even higher than the report has found.

Separate research published earlier this year found that almost 100,000 children living on the island of Ireland today will die prematurely due to overweight and obesity.

“These foods which are full of empty calories are now a staple in our weekly shop,” said Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition at Safefood.

“We accept them as the norm in our children’s daily diet and they are not seen as a real treat any more.”

She said the balance was “all wrong” and families were “under-consuming the vital nutrients in fruit and vegetables.

“Undoubtedly this level of consumption by families is contributing to our dangerous levels of overweight, type 2 diabetes and cancer.”

She said highly-processed foods “were everywhere, at all times of the year and are so cheap. it’s no wonder that we are finding it difficult to not overindulge our children and ourselves.

Regarding being healthy as a family, 40 per cent of parents² cited trying to cut back on sweets, ice-cream and other treats as the number one barrier to healthy eating.

“This research confirms the need for parents and all those who care for children to work together to improve children’s eating habits” said Minister for State Catherine Byrne. “Not only are these so-called treat foods and drinks mostly high in fat, sugar and salt and contribute to overweight and obesity but equally important is the fact that if children fill up on these foods, they don’t have an appetite for the nutritious foods they need for good health and wellbeing.”

She said the such foods should not be every day foods and only consumed once or twice a week at most and in small amounts. “Eating vegetables, fruit and salads are healthier choices and lay down the foundation of good eating habits for life. This campaign is by parents and for parents, and the motto is try and try again - parenting is tough but we know parents are tougher.”

The new research was carried out to coincide with the latest phase f a five-year public health awareness campaign from Safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland labelled START.

The campaign is encouraging families to take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle for their children by supporting them to start with “one daily win” and to persist with the changes, no matter how difficult they become.

The “START” campaign has been created to help parents get started and build momentum by achieving one daily win for example, having fruit after school as a snack. Not buying treats in the weekly shop means there are less of them to have at home.

And by linking treats to real occasions like family birthdays and events helps children to understand the value of what is a treat and that it’s not an everyday thing.