BBC Good Food Nation survey 2016: How we eat now

BBC Good Food Nation survey 2016: How we eat now

Welcome to our third annual BBC Good Food Nation survey. We asked over 5,000 UK adults about their eating habits to build a fascinating picture of how the nation eats in 2016. Read on to discover key trends, our common passions, what's in and what's out...

Our annual BBC Good Food Nation survey always throws up surprising results and we’ve had another whirlwind 12 months. Our 2016 results highlighted big generational differences in habits, a decline of former favourite dishes and a rise in social media foodie-ism. We’ve picked our standout statistics, and included tips and resources if this inspires you to shake up your own food habits…


We’re eating with our eyes… and our thumbs 

The sight of beautiful plates of food across social media is a familiar one, and our survey reflected this: as many as 40% of millennials (21-34 year olds) have posted pictures of food that they’ve cooked, with 30% whipping out their camera when they’re in a restaurant or café. What’s more, almost one in five millennials have made a restaurant booking after seeing a picture on social media and nearly a third of them (32%) have been inspired to get cooking.  On the other hand, fewer than one in ten people over 50 would take a photograph of their meal, but that’s a reflection of the way we use social media; after all, at present 90% of Instagram users are under 35. 

More on the social scene… 

How to take the best pictures for Instagram
The best foodies to follow on Snapchat
Join BBC Good Food on social media

A nation of meat lovers 

Our survey found that meat is still an important part of daily eating. The average person has just six meat-free days per month, and nearly half (49%) of participants stated that “a meal isn’t a meal without meat.” A similar percentage (52%) weren’t aware of the Department of Health’s guidelines for consumption of red meat (they recommend 70g per person per day – that’s the equivalent of just one lamb chop.) Despite this, there’s a growing awareness of the link between meat consumption, health and the quality of produce: our survey found that 78% of respondents want a good butcher back on their local high street. 

More on meat… 

How much meat is safe to eat?
Classic recipes, minus the meat
How to cook with cheaper butcher’s cuts


Our new favourite foods

Government figures have shown declining consumption of white fish in Britain for more than forty years, but it’s still a shock to see fish and chips completely absent from the top five meals in our survey. Chips just manage to sneak in there at number five (accompanied by steak) but pasta, pizza and curry have all leapfrogged the traditional Friday meal and lodged themselves firmly in our affections. Top of the heap, however, is another British classic, Sunday roast; 23% of respondents look forward to that meal more than any other.

Our five favourite foods: 

1. Sunday roast
2. Curry
3. Pizza
4. Pasta
5. Steak & chips

No time for breakfast, no time for lunch – what are teenagers eating?


Pizza is what 16-20 year olds want to eat most of all. 23% of Generation Z-ers favour the reassuring warmth of this Italian titan, but this could partly be down to their takeaway proclivities: on average they eat fast food 4.5 times a week, with one in six doing so twice a day. Our survey paints an unhealthy overall picture; this age group is also the most likely to skip breakfast, while 29% also admit to skipping lunch on most days, if not all. But there’s a glimmer of hope – teenagers are the most likely age group to be exercising regularly (86%).

Teenage kicks… 

Recipes for teenagers
Healthy eating: What adolescents need
Quick breakfast recipes
How to eat for exercise

Inspiration for the nation

Our survey results showed an increase in two things: our belief in our cooking skills and interest in cooking in general. There’s been a 10% increase in the number of people who cook and prepare meals from scratch at least once a week, and there’s now a majority (just over half) who would describe themselves as “good” cooks. So where does our cooking inspiration stem from? 62% of people claim to have learned their skills from their mum, 41% from books and just 15% from websites. 67% of people have used technology (laptops, tablets, mobiles) for guidance in the heat of the kitchen, with 37% of Generation Z (16-20) and 43% of millenials (21-34) having smartphones handy while standing at the stove. 

Up your skills… 

25 skills every cook should learn
How to master basic knife skills
All our cookery guides

Eating out

Our survey shows an increase in the average amount that we spend on eating out in cafés and restaurants; last year it was £17.22 per household per week, but in 2016 that’s up to £19.10. London’s spend (£29.07) is 50% higher than the national average, while the Welsh spend the least (£14.87). 26% of respondents spend nothing at all on meals in restaurants or cafés. Similarly, around a quarter of people we surveyed spend nothing at lunchtime because they bring their lunch with them, and on average the nation eats a packed lunch three times a week. 

Further reading… 

44 lunchbox recipes
BBC Good Food travel: Our guides to eating like a local

What a difference a year makes: 2016 vs 2015 in brief

  • There’s been a marked increase in healthy snacking on fresh fruit; only 20% would choose fruit last year, but that percentage has increased to 44%.
  • We’re spending more on eating out, with our weekly spend up from £17.22 last year to £19.10 in 2016.
  • 26% of us meet the World Health Organisation’s recommended 5-a-day, up from 23% in 2015.
  • Takeaway spend is down year on year: just £9.97 this year, as opposed to £11.31 in 2015.
  • We care more about the quality of food we buy than we did 12 months ago; 66% cited it as a consideration, compared to 54% last year.
  • The average amount spent on weekly groceries has decreased from £57.30 in 2015 to £54.65 this year.
  • There’s been a 10% increase in the number of people preparing meals from scratch at least once a week since 2005.

What do you think of our survey findings? Sound familiar? We’d love to hear how you compare.