Junk food argument is garbage

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 22/10/2012
Big Mac
JUNK FOOD: Households that consumed less fat bought take-outs less than once a month.

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Eating healthy will cost you the same as splurging out on junk food, according to a study on New Zealand's shopping habits.

The Auckland research disproved a view that the cheap cost of fatty and sugary food was driving an obesity epidemic.

But this latest research, presented at an obesity conference in Auckland last week, revealed there was no difference in the weekly spends between the most and least healthy eaters.

A quick browse down the supermarket aisle showed a $2 bag of chips costs the same as a kilogram of potatoes. Milk will set you back about the same as a 2.25l coke, at roughly $3.

Auckland nutritionist Rebecca Whiting, who led the study, said a person's ethnicity and salary can have more influence on shopping habits than pricing.

"There are a number of factors that drive consumption, and the cost of food is only one - and it may not be as important as we think.

"Habit, preference, meal planning, time, taste, and the desire for family harmony all contribute to the types of food families buy and the meals they prepare."

Parents in the study were asked how often they shopped at the supermarket, grocer, takeaways, restaurant and dairy.

Maori, Pacific and Asian shoppers were more likely to shop at farmers markets, but Pacific and Maori shoppers were also more often buying take-outs or snacks from petrol stations.

Unhealthy eaters were, not surprisingly, dining out at fast food joints more than once a week.

Meanwhile, households that consumed less fat bought take-outs less than once a month.

Whiting said this research helped us to get to grips with the obesity epidemic.

"For years we have been telling people to eat more fruit and vegetables, more fibre, and less fat - it hasn't worked.

"Many people have heard the healthy eating messages, but haven't changed their behaviour."

Whiting, who worked for the Health Promotion Agency, said healthy eating must be easy and as well as tasty.

"To do this, we need to understand more about the families we are talking to, what they like eating, and how they shop. Obesity and its causes are complex.  This research gives us another piece of the puzzle."

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