Covid as an Accelerator of Healthy and Sustainable Eating Behaviour

Wageningen University & Research conducted a study on the shifts in eating behaviour caused by the Covid-19 crisis. Because of the corona crisis, we are currently in a worldwide real-life experiment. Under normal circumstances, changing your eating patterns can be quite difficult. Life-changing events, such as the lockdowns and other measures taken to slow the spread of the corona virus, can act as a catalyst for behaviour change. Next to these measures, the communication surrounding individuals’ health and susceptibility to the virus has also brought about awareness about the importance of a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep.

This meta-analysis examined the results of 32 European peer-reviewed articles looking at the influence of corona control measures on eating behaviour. The authors have also looked at what we can learn from this crisis to stimulate people to eat more healthily and sustainably.

The study shows that a positive change has been observed in purchasing behaviour: whereas most people buy food at the same way they did before covid, some indicate to do more online groceries and shop at local stores like the butcher, greengrocer, baker and local shops. Especially in cooking changes are visible: because of the lockdown, people cook more often at home and more people take out or order a meal. Some people started to bake more often because of covid. Another positive and sustainable change is observed in the throwing away food, a notable amount of people throw away less food since covid and people have less leftovers.

In general, most people have continued to eat the same since the covid outbreak, but certain groups have made changes in their diets. Especially for young people, overweight people and vulnerable people, eating behaviour has become more extreme, either positively or negatively. 22% of the participants from these demographic groups have started eating more healthily by increasing their uptake of fruit and vegetables and decreasing snacks and alcohol. On the other side of the spectrum, 12% have moved to less healthy eating patterns: more snacks, more take-out or delivery, and more alcohol.

These numbers may seem small at first sight, but these shifts in dietary patterns do not naturally occur on such a large scale.

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