Brits are eating 50% more calories from takeaways now than before Covid – with the rise coming at the expense of restaurants, pubs and coffee shops

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Britons are shunning restaurant and pub meals in favour of takeaways following a cultural shift during the pandemic, a report reveals.

Adults consumed up to 74 per cent more calories from takeaways as lockdown hooked the nation on the likes of Deliveroo and JustEat.

And while this has fallen slightly since hospitality venues reopened, intake remains 48 per cent above pre-pandemic levels.

New analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows this rise has been at the expense of pubs, restaurants and coffee shops, with people still dining out less than they did pre-pandemic.

Adults consumed up to 74 per cent more calories from takeaways as lockdown hooked the nation on the likes of Deliveroo and JustEats. And while this has fallen slightly since hospitality venues reopened, intake remains 48 per cent above pre-pandemic levels

Before the crisis, the average adult consumed around 270 calories a week from takeaways. 

During the first Covid lockdown, this reached 395 calories a week. 

While restaurant re-openings saw takeaway consumption fall through 2020, takeaway consumption began to rise again going in to 2021, this time to around 470 calories per week during the third national lockdown in England.

These higher levels have endured, with takeaway consumption in the first quarter of 2022 at around 400 calories a week.

Households’ food shopping baskets also got bigger through the Covid pandemic and beyond.

Even outside strict lockdown periods in 2020, households purchased around 170 more calories per adult per day – an increase of 9 per cent over pre-pandemic levels.

The healthiness of shopping baskets did not change markedly over the period. 

But, despite fears at the time, these effects have proven mostly temporary. 

By 2022 the size of households’ shopping baskets had largely returned to normal, the analysis shows.

The IFS said overall calorie intake appears to have returned to normal but the excess consumed during that period ‘could still have long-term effects on health and weight’.

The proportion of Brits overweight or obese has slowly grown over time, rising to two thirds as of 2021, the latest data available. No data was recorded for 2020 the year of the Covid pandemic

The proportion of Brits overweight or obese has slowly grown over time, rising to two thirds as of 2021, the latest data available. No data was recorded for 2020 the year of the Covid pandemic 

Report author Andrew McKendrick, a research economist at the IFS, said: ‘The Covid pandemic saw huge changes in both how many calories households were buying, and where they came from.

‘Lockdowns and closures of hospitality left a bigger role for consumption of food at home and for takeaways.

‘But, by the start of 2022, most of these changes had been reversed: households had largely gone back to purchasing as much as they did in 2019.

‘The pandemic did leave one legacy, though, in the much-increased use of takeaways.’

Katharine Jenner, director of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: ‘This research confirms what is already clear — hot food takeaways are taking over our high streets. 

‘The pandemic turbocharged this, and now unhealthy food is so available that it almost unavoidable.

‘We know that on average the portion sizes in these places are much larger than you’d make at home, with more sugar, salt and fat. Consumers can’t even make informed decisions about what they’re buying.

‘Councils need to make high streets healthier by using the planning tools they have available, and national government needs to step up and empower them to do so.’

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