Unhealthy high streets

Last week it was featured in the news, a report identifying the UK’s unhealthiest high streets.  High streets were ranked by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) according to the numbers of payday lenders, bookmakers, tanning salons and fast food outlets.  There was a clear link between deprived areas and unhealthy high streets with Grimsby, Blackpool and Walsall topping the list in contrast to Edinburgh, Canterbury and Taunton which had the healthiest high streets.

In recent years there has been a proliferation of fast food outlets (FFOs) in the most deprived areas – but why is this an issue?  To start with, there is plenty of evidence backing the link between the frequency of visiting FFOs and health outcomes such as weight gain, insulin resistance and high blood pressure.1 A recent study added further weight to this evidence by finding an association between FFO exposure, fast food consumption and obesity.2  These associations are hardly surprising given that fast food tends to be energy-dense, high in salt and served in large portion sizes.

Despite the reputation though, we have all had fast foods in our time and as the old saying goes ‘everything in moderation!’ I was quoted in an article a couple of years ago suggesting ways to make healthier choices when ordering your favourite takeaway:

  • Switching creamy curries to tomato-based dishes such as tandoori and madras
  • Opt for steamed dishes rather than fried foods
  • Choose diet/sugar free soft drinks instead of regular ones

 

Public Health England also announced in March 2018 a challenge for the whole food industry to reduce calories in foods (most commonly eaten by children) by 20% by 2024.  The introduction of the sugar levy has resulted in widespread reformulation amongst high profile soft drinks manufacturers resulting in commercially successful lower-sugar options.

The government is currently consulting on plans to make the display of calorie information mandatory in out-of-home food and drink outlets because some research suggests that this is effective in reducing overall calorie intake.  (Read my previous blog about this).

 But what can you start to do today in order to provide healthier options?  Now, I‘m not saying take chips off the menu – but you can make small changes to top-selling items to make a big impact!  Look at ways you can modify your existing recipes by the types and amounts of ingredients used and also in the way you cook and prepare the dishes.  Here are some of my top tips:

Reduce calories by switching from double to single cream
Use thick cut chips or wedges in preference to thin cut fries
Use rapeseed oil for frying and remember to drain food well by giving it a good bang and shake
Dry fry meats where possible after trimming away visible fat
Try to include more vegetables into dishes and use seasonal, frozen or canned to keep costs down

 

AB Food Nutrition works with manufacturers and caterers to provide nutrient composition values of their products for labelling & menu boards and also during product development or reformulation. We can work with you to find ways to make existing dishes healthier and provide support in complying with the law if you want to make nutrition claims. Contact Anne for further information about our cost-effective nutrition and labelling services.

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1  Health on the High Street, RSPH, 2018
2  Burgoine, T., Sarkar, C., Webster, C.J., Monsivais, P., 2018. Examining the interaction of fast-food outlet exposure and income on diet and obesity: evidence from 51,361 Biobank participants, , International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, 15(1):71 doi: 10.1186/s12966-018-0699-8.