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.

Now says a study by the Institute for Fiscal studies, these higher levels have endured: takeaway consumption in the first quarter of 2022 was around 400 calories a week – 50% above pre-pandemic levels.

Households’ food shopping baskets also got bigger through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Even outside strict lockdown periods in 2020, households purchased around 170 more calories per adult per day – an increase of 9% 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

This research, which was only able to look at data up to the first quarter of 2022 (before the cost of living crisis), suggests that the major shift in diets and nutrition during the pandemic could have been short-lived in terms of the number of calories consumed.

But since there has been no corresponding reduction in calories to offset the increases during the pandemic, the changes that occurred in the 18 months from March 2020 could still have long-term effects on health and weight.

Andrew McKendrick, Research Economist at IFS and an author of the report, said: ‘The COVID-19 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.’


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