UK adults’ attitude towards food wrong, say experts

‘It is very easy to turn to takeaways when we’re feeling low, but while these high-sugar and high-fat foods can make us feel better in the moment, they aren’t the best long-term mood boosters,’ psychologist says

Robert Knight
Friday 21 May 2021 15:06 BST
<p>Fast food should not be turned to as a pick-me-up</p>

Fast food should not be turned to as a pick-me-up

UK adults are turning to the ‘wrong’ foods to boost their mood, according to experts.

Nutritionists have revealed the dishes which make you feel better and those which don’t – with grains, oily fish and fruit among the items which should be consumed when you need a pick-me-up.

Whereas takeaway foods like pizza and chips are best avoided.

However, a study of 2,000 adults found 65 per cent will turn to precisely these kinds of meals when they’re feeling low.

The research by premium salmon brand MOWI found a third have ‘no idea’ which foods help improve their wellbeing, although 73 per cent think there is a link between what we eat and how we feel in ourselves.

Nutrition-trained Chartered Psychologist Kimberley Wilson, author of How To Build a Healthy Brain, said: “It is very easy to turn to takeaways when we’re feeling low, but while these high-sugar and high-fat foods can make us feel better in the moment, they aren’t the best long-term mood boosters.

“People are aware that their food choices can impact their mood, but many people wouldn’t know which foods to pick up help them feel more positive day to day and to actively improve their brain health.

“You might crave a burger, or maybe some chips but you – and your brain – will be much better off eating wholegrains, vegetables and salmon.

“I’ve long been an advocate of the benefits of salmon – it’s far more versatile than people realise, rich in Omega-3, an essential fatty-acid which the body cannot produce by itself, but is also a great source of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, all known to be good for mood.”

It also emerged respondents believe a traditional English tea, a coffee or alcohol to be the best drinks to improve their mood.

The average adult estimates that it takes an average of 18 minutes after eating something to realise if it’s had an impact on their mood.

A majority admitted they reach for less healthy foods when they are in a bad mood – though 26 per cent feel worse as a result after.

Due to the pandemic, some said their attitude to food has changed in the last year with 39 per cent of those trying to eat healthier options because they have been more sedentary.

A few have have eaten more whole foods than usual, but almost one in five have consumed more processed foods.

The majority have more inventive in the kitchen having tried their hand at cooking new dishes over the last 12 months – with more than a quarter enjoying challenging themselves.

It also emerged that Britons don’t take their diets seriously until the age of 31, despite 71 per cent recognising that diet can impact things like depression, anxiety and cognition.

Some said find healthy food often boring to eat, with a number of those who reach for sugary treats suffering from ‘food guilt’.  

The survey, carried out via OnePoll, found that of those looking for a healthier option, 64 per cent eat fish weekly or more, with 29 per cent of those cooking it more than once a week.  

Food and drinks UK adults turn to when they’re feeling low

1. Chocolate

2. Cake

3. Crisps

4. Alcohol

5. Ice cream

6. Chips

7. Takeaways

8. Coffee

9. Sweets

10. Pizza

11. English breakfast tea

12. Fizzy drinks

13. Burgers

14. Bananas

15. Roast chicken

16. Pasta

17. White bread

18. Berries (e.g. Raspberries/blueberries/strawberries)

19. Orange juice

20. Eggs

21. Apples

22. Nuts and seeds (e.g. Sunflower/pumpkin/walnuts/almonds/chia seeds)

23. Salmon

24. Energy drinks

25. Honey

26. Cold meats

27. Avocados

28. Green tea

29. Rice

30. Oranges


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