Chocolate has topped the charts as the UK’s favourite junk food, with crisps coming in second place, according to a new YouGov poll commissioned by World Cancer Research Fund.
The survey comes as the cancer prevention charity launches Dump the Junk. A campaign which encourages people to give up their favourite junk food, or altogether, for the month of June.
World Cancer Research Fund asked the public what their favourite junk food is, how often they eat junk food every week, and how much money they spend per person on junk food in a week.
While chocolate was clear favourite for women (28%), for men, chocolate and crisps tied for first place (16% for both). Cake and pizza came in third and fourth place for women and biscuits and pizza were follow-up contenders for men. Chips (5%) and burgers (5%) lagged far behind as favourites.
Nearly three in five (59%) people eat junk food three times or more a week, and only 4% said they don’t eat it in a typical week.
70% of UK adults said they spend up to £21 a week on junk food. Over 55s spend the least on junk food, with just over 2 in 5 (43%) saying they spend less than £5 a week on it, and a further 13% spend nothing.
World Cancer Research Fund is promoting its campaign so that people can start to feel the benefits of eating a healthier diet and raise funds for cancer prevention. Those participating in Dump the Junk can ask friends and family to sponsor them or donate the money they save from cutting out junk food.
Regularly eating junk food, such as chocolate, crisps and chips from a takeaway, can contribute to weight gain. One of the biggest risk factors for cancer is living with overweight and obesity. There’s strong evidence that it increases the risk of developing several types of cancer, including bowel, breast and liver cancer.
One of the World Cancer Research Fund’s recommendations for cancer prevention is to have a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains such as brown rice and wholemeal bread and pulses like beans and lentils.
Sarah Ann Macklin registered nutritionist and Live Well Be Well founder, comments: “It’s essential to make healthy choices to support our physical and mental well-being – junk food is low in nutrients and high in calories, fat, and sugar. These unhealthy ingredients can contribute to weight gain, obesity, and other health problems, including cancer. By giving up junk food, we can improve our overall health and longevity, which is why I am supporting Dump the Junk.”
James Radford, from Northamptonshire, has pledged to participate in Dump the Junk this June, saying: “I am always on the road with my job, so it is easy for me to stop off for some fried chicken. However, a healthy diet is important because I feel much better physically and mentally. I want to get up, get out and seize the day more. That’s why I will take on the challenge and give up all takeaway foods this June.”
Tricia George, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019, has given up junk food and says: “It’s not easy to give up, but some of my top tips do not buy junk food in the first place because relying on self-will does not always work. If it’s not readily available, you will find a healthier option to snack on, and if you can, try making your own snacks where possible – this allows me to control the amount of sugar and butter added. You too can learn to say, ‘no thank you’ when offered junk food.”
Hannah Burgess, community and events fundraising manager at World Cancer Research Fund, says: “Most of us indulge in food that’s not good for us from time to time, and our poll shows that despite cost-of-living concerns, lots of us still reach for a takeaway or bar of chocolate – which I have to admit is my favourite junk food. We know that giving up junk food won’t be easy; however, whatever positive changes people can do is a great starting point for making healthier changes to their diet. You’ll also be raising vital funds for cancer prevention research.”