More than a quarter of consumers are eating less healthily due to the cost-of-living crisis, including turning increasingly to ready meals and processed foods, a study suggests.

More than two-thirds of people (69%) consider themselves to be healthy eaters but 28% say they are eating less nutritious food because it is too expensive, with 19% reporting that they are eating more ready meals and processed food because they are cheaper, according to the BBC Good Food Nation survey.

The poll found 17% are cooking less from scratch and 16% are cutting back on organic food and ingredients because of the cost.

Some 12% say they are eating less protein, such as meat and fish, because of price increases.

Some 28% say they have switched to a cheaper supermarket due to cost-of-living considerations.

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Overall, 61% say the cost of living has impacted their healthy eating habits in some way, including being more conscious of eating healthily because they cannot afford to get sick (18%) and eating less healthily due to stress (15%).

Christine Hayes, editor in chief of BBC Good Food, said: "The BBC Good Food Nation survey shows we consider ourselves a nation of healthy eaters and we care about what we eat.

"However, rising costs have impacted choices and compromises have had to be made with people buying more processed food and ready meals and swapping supermarkets to save money."

The Herald: Milk, pasta, meat and sugar are all much more expensive compared to a year agoMilk, pasta, meat and sugar are all much more expensive compared to a year ago (Image: PA)

More than a third of consumers (36%) said they are producing fewer leftovers now, with their reasons being to save money (59%); because they are meal planning more carefully (44%); and 34% saying they want to reduce waste to help the planet.

The four most common foods people throw away are salad leaves (31%), bread (29%), fruit (24%) and vegetables (23%).

The results are based on a Censuswide survey of 2,013 UK consumers which was carried out between August 10-14 this year.

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Overall inflation, based on the consumer price index (CPI) which counts groceries, services and goods such as fuel, peaked at 11.1% in October 2022 and had fallen to 6.7% by August 2023 - the lowest since February 2022 - meaning prices were still rising but at a slower rate.

However, food and drink costs alone continued to outstrip general inflation with prices increasing by 13.6% year-on-year in August compared to a 45-year high of 19.1% in March this year.

The Herald: CPI inflation and inflation specific to food/non-alcoholic beveragesCPI inflation and inflation specific to food/non-alcoholic beverages (Image: ONS)

The Office for National Statistics said the largest impact on food and drink inflation came from commonly-purchased dairy products including milk, cheese and eggs.

The cost of cheese had risen by 18% and eggs by 22%, but there were also steep increases in the cost of pork - 22% more expensive - while pasta was up by 24.5%, sugar by 55.8% and olive oil by 38%.

Inflation is even more acute for households on lower incomes, however, who tend to spend a larger proportion of their incomes on food and fuel.

READ MORE: Inflation will cause Covid-level spike in premature mortality, according to modelling

Research last week by Glasgow University and Public Health Scotland estimated that inflation peaked in October last year at 15.7% for the poorest households compared to 11.7% for the most affluent, after adjusting for the effects of the UK Government's Energy Price Guarantee (EPG).

The study forecast that the erosion of real-term incomes as a result of spiralling prices could result in a 6.4% increase in premature mortality - deaths before the age of 75 - which is on a par with the 7.4% spike caused by Covid in 2020.