How healthy is your Uber Eats takeaway?Nov 24, 2020
Takeaway foods are one of the fastest-growing categories in online retail sales, experiencing a 99% annual growth in Australia. However, a new research study reports that the most popular online food delivery services consist of foods that can be classified as unhealthy and the most popular menu items people order are of poor nutritional quality.
The research study, conducted by researchers from University of Sydney systematic searched publicly available population-level data in two international cities: Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand to identify geographical areas with above-average concentrations (>30%) of young people (15–34-years). Then using a standardized data extraction protocol, the ten most popular food outlets within each area were identified. Researchers then analysed the Uber Eats website, focusing on the delivery time between 6.00 PM–6.30 PM, the time when food outlets operate for dinner. To determine the quality of foods mostly consumed in this period of time, foods were classified using the nutritional Food Environment Score (FES), which ranged from -10 ‘unhealthiest’ to +10 ‘healthiest’. Additionally, the researchers classified the most popular menu items from each food outlet as discretionary (junk food) or core foods/beverages according to the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
The researchers reported that from their analysis, the majority of popular food outlets were classified as ‘unhealthy’ (789/1074) and were predominately from takeaway franchise stores (470/789, e.g. McDonalds). Additionally, the researchers observed that 86% of all popular menu items were classified as discretionary (junk) foods (n = 4958/5769).
The researchers conclude that the current digital disruption occurring within a traditional built food environment is leading to mostly unhealthy online food delivery services consisting of discretionary foods (i.e., ‘junk foods’).
Our take at StriveStronger
Frequently at StriveStronger, we get asked about our opinion on takeaway foods. Never is it an easy answer as generalising take away foods into one basket tends to be unhelpful, especially when there are take away foods that can be nutritious and health (e.g. fresh salad and free-range organic chicken). What this study does highlight is the increasing trend, especially among young people, towards online delivery dinner options, replacing traditionally home-cooked meals. Technological advances have made ordering dinner on your phone quick and easy but it is associated with increased consumption of poor quality (junk) foods. We advise users of online delivery to pay attention to what foods they are ordering and not to rely on Uber Eats healthy food classifications, as this study demonstrated most food outlets that were classified as ‘healthy’ on Uber Eats were actually unhealthy when classified against the Australian Dietary Guidelines. We also advise that eating take out foods be the exception and not the norm so that you have control over not just what foods you are eating on a regular basis, but also the quality of these foods. Remember, when it comes to health, wellbeing and performance, you are what you eat or as the French lawyer Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote in 1826, Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es" translated to “tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”.
You can access the full research article at: https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/10/3107
Reference: Partridge, S.R.; Gibson, A.A.; Roy, R.; Malloy, J.A.; Raeside, R.; Jia, S.S.; Singleton, A.C.; Mandoh, M.; Todd, A.R.; Wang, T.; Halim, N.K.; Hyun, K.; Redfern, J. Junk Food on Demand: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Nutritional Quality of Popular Online Food Delivery Outlets in Australia and New Zealand. Nutrients 2020, 12, 3107.
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