Britons lose their taste for snacks in fight to get fit

Britons are cutting down on crisps and chocolate as health campaigns about the risks of high levels of sugar and salt begin to filter through, a study suggests.

The number of people who ate chocolate as a snack in December fell by nine percentage points from the previous year to 59 per cent. The number who ate crisps fell by ten points to 57 per cent, according to a survey by Mintel.

During the same period, the number of people who chose not to eat between meals increased. About 3 per cent of people refused to snack in December 2014, rising to 5 per cent last year.

The survey of 2,000 people was published as it emerged that two thirds of toddlers are eating too much, leaving them on course for obesity in later life.

Almost all toddlers in the study were consuming too much salt and protein, while most were lacking in vitamin D, fibre and iron, according to a study of 2,200 children aged about 20 months.

The toddlers ate an average of 1,035 calories a day, 7 per cent more than recommended, with only a third of the group within the guidance.

Hayley Syrad, of University College London, who led the study, said: “The current diets of young children in England are a cause for concern.

“We know that dietary preferences and habits are established during the first two years of life and that what we eat in early life can have an enduring impact on our health.”

One in ten children is obese on leaving primary school and Ms Syrad said that there had been little change in habits since a similar study 20 years ago. “We know that many parents are quite poor at recognising that their child is overweight. A few extra calories here and there will gradually lead to excess weight and parents potentially won’t notice,” she said.

The survey into snacking suggested that it has declined year on year as people become more health conscious. It said that 30 per cent of adults were trying to lose weight all or most of the time, and 48 per cent of people said that they were also trying to eat healthily most of the time.

The research suggested that as consumer spending levels rise in the next five years, more people will reject “big night in” style evenings while watching television, and instead will prefer to eat out more often, giving less opportunities for snacking.

Public health experts have long warned of the dangers of snacking. In January the Royal Society for Public Health suggested that sugary drinks and snacks should carry labels that tell people how much exercise they would need to do to burn off the calories in an attempt to deter them. A bar of chocolate could have a label to inform shoppers that it would take about 25 minutes of running to burn off.

Amy Price, a senior food and drink analyst at Mintel, said: “Snacking in the UK is almost universal; however, health considerations continue to play a significant role in the market.

“Health remains an ongoing issue for consumers, with calorie and sugar content of high relevance and as swathes of the population try to address this, it appears to have had a knock-on effect on consumer snacking.”