Projections currently suggest 40% of Scots will be overweight or obese by the year 2030, and research conducted by Cancer Research UK in the last year has linked obesity to 13 different types of cancer.
The health consequences of a poor diet are real and significant. However, it’s not just individuals that suffer, it can have an impact on the nation’s economy and productivity. It’s clear that urgent action is required to improve the Scottish diet, which will in turn improve our health and reduce the burden placed on our health services.
We recognise there’s no ‘silver bullet’ and a wide range of actions are required to address Scotland’s long-standing problems with diet and obesity. It is going to take time to tackle, but we’re at a fork in the road and we must all contribute if we are to take the right route towards a healthier Scotland.
The burden to make these changes is incumbent on us all and the onus is not just being placed on businesses. There are food outlets who are already doing great work in giving consumers the information they need, from calorie labelling on menus, to making healthier choices more readily available, making it easier for consumers to choose healthier options.
In Scotland we also have the ‘healthyliving’ award which is a recognised sign of healthier food within the catering sector, rewarding those who are making it easier for their customers to eat more healthily. The aim is to encourage changes to cooking practices and ingredients to keep fat, salt and sugar to a minimum while offering healthy produce such as fresh fruit and vegetables or low fat dairy items. Applying for an award is one of the small steps caterers can take to show customers that healthy options are available.
But we believe that there’s certainly more that businesses could be doing to help tackle Scotland’s problems with diet and obesity, and that some businesses would welcome support. There are many small to medium sized food and drink businesses in Scotland and we’re committed to doing what we can to help them increase the information they provide consumers.
Alongside our plans to support businesses, there is also strong public support to improve the nation’s diet with 64% of people in Scotland concerned about our country’s unhealthy diet.
We can all play a part, as the more that we ask for healthier options the more widely they will be provided. If government, industry and individuals continue to work together, significant change can happen.
Our #NoToUpsizing campaign, which launched in June this year, is encouraging people in Scotland to think about making a small change and become more aware of the amount of unhealthy food or drinks they’re consuming when they go out and the potential health consequences.
‘Upsizing’ is something which most consumers encounter regularly, but there’s a choice to make. By ‘upsizing’ we refer to tactics used to encourage consumers to ‘going large’, add sides or add extras when out and about. This can mean people end up buying and eating more than originally intended – and ultimately consuming more calories. Worryingly, nearly half of Scots don’t even think about the extra calories they might be eating as a result of ‘upsizing’ let alone what it might be doing to their waistlines.
Many people are consuming extra calories from foods which are high in fat, salt and sugar when they pop out and buy something to eat or drink. Saying no to upsizing could be a positive step towards improving the Scottish diet.
Gillian Purdon is a senior dietary advisor at regulatory body Food Standards Scotland