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Bulgaria eats: Insights into eating habits

Issue 7, July 2021

Date: 06/08/2021 Comments: 0
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Bulgaria eats:  Insights into eating habits

HEALTHY EATING

Consuming a healthy diet plays an important part in maintaining good overall health for many. A healthy and balanced diet includes a wide variety of foods in the right proportions and in the right amount, while at the same time protects individuals against malnutrition and diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Although the meaning of the term “healthy diet” or “healthy eating” may differ between specialists and individuals, over 50% of Bulgarians believe they often or always consume a healthy diet. The choice of food, health-wise, is mainly influenced by gender, level of education and household income.

The results from our study show that women are significantly more likely to consume a healthy diet than men, with 61% of the female population saying they always or often choose a healthy food option compared to 45% for males.

The level of education and household income also strongly correlates with the eating behavior of consumers and in particular whether they keep a healthy diet or not. For example 67% of all respondents holding a Higher education degree say they always or often have a healthy diet, compared to 40% of people with basic or no education. A similar trend can be observed among respondents at the top and the bottom of the salary chain – the more one earns, the more likely to consume a healthy diet always or often.

 

CHANING EATING HABITS

Changing an eating habit, or two, could make a huge difference on the overall state of the body. Finding out what eating habits individuals are willing to change helps us gain insight into what food choices are getting in the way of a healthy diet.

Most people (64%) are willing to make a change towards at least one aspect of their eating habits, with over half of them noting they would like to start buying products of higher quality.

Interestingly enough the healthy eaters (those who always or often eat a healthy diet), are more inclined to reduce the intake of particular ingredients (such as meat, salt/sugar, and coffee), while their less healthy counterparts are more willing to change the place of food consumption (eating out/at home) and reduce intake of whole food groups such as fizzy drinks and fried foods.

 

COFFE AND ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION

Both, coffee and alcoholic drinks are widely used around the world. But how much coffee do Bulgarians drink and how often do they raise a toast with an alcoholic beverage?

Caffeine is a stimulant, which may cause people to feel more alert and awake. A comprehensive research undertaken by Temple et al. (2017) suggests that “moderate daily caffeine intake at dosages of up to 400 mg/day are not associated with adverse effects”. Coffee on the other hand is one of the main sources of caffeine alongside tea and cocoa beans. Although coffee cup sizes vary, it is widely accepted that 400 mg is equal to roughly 4 cups of  coffee.

The results from this study show that the vast majority of people in Bulgaria (78%) consume 1 to 4 cups of coffee/day, which fits within the recommended amount. However, consuming 5 or more cups a day may be viewed as harmful or unhealthy as 1/3 of people having 5+ cups of coffee per day believe they should cut back.

Although alcohol intake is not recommended by many official sources (such the Ministry of Health of Bulgaria, the EU Commission and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), it is considered that, if consumed in moderation (up to 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men), could be a part of a healthy eating pattern.

The results from our study show that 60% of all Bulgarians over 18 y/o have an alcoholic beverage at least once and up to 7 times a week, 10% have a drink at least once a month, 8% less than once a month and 21% do not drink at all.

The results suggest that people who have an alcoholic drink once a day and up to 6 times a week seem to be more self-conscious about the frequency of their alcohol intake than people who drink once a week or less. For example, 41% of those who have an alcoholic beverage once a day would like to reduce alcohol consumption, and 23% of people who consume alcohol 4 to 6 times a week believe they should cut back.

Also, while men are significantly more likely to drink alcohol once a day, women have a greater tendency to never consume alcoholic beverages.

 

CUISINE PREFERENCE

When it comes to cuisine preference, the strongest determinant seems to be the age of the respondents.

The vast majority of people in Bulgaria show the strongest preference towards traditional Bulgarian cuisine over any other cuisine. It is significantly more favored by people over 50 y/o, those living in a 5-member-households (99%), pensioners (97%) and people employed as administrative assistants (87%).

Italian cuisine, while not as popular as the Bulgarian one, is the type of foreign cuisine preferred by most respondents. It is favored mainly by people aged 15-49 y/o (44%), individuals with high household income (47%), those living in the capital – Sofia (45%), as well as managers and highly qualified personnel (38%).

Asian food cuisine does not enjoy high popularity among Bulgarians. Yet, its biggest supporters are younger people aged 15-29 y/o (23%), those with high household income (32%) and residents of the capital (28%).

French is preferred by the least amount of people out of all studied cuisines. Similarly to Italian and Asian cuisine, French food is popular mostly among individuals with high household income – above 1900+ BGN (20%), people living in the capital of Bulgaria – Sofia (22%) and people who are employed on high managerial roles (13%).

 

FOOD TYPES PURCHASED

Whether raw, frozen, canned or semi-processed we all must buy food. What food type wins the race in Bulgaria as the most purchased one?

Raw foods are by far the most purchased food type in 2020, followed by frozen, canned and semi-processed foods. Specific groups of individuals, however, have stronger affinity towards different types of food. For example, women, those with secondary and higher education and people with at least one child in the household are more likely to buy raw foods. On the other hand, men, people with basic education and the young (15-29 y/o) are more likely to semi-processed foods.

 

EATING OUT OR EATING IN?

There are many reasons why people choose to eat outside the home – from social networking and treating oneself to a delicious dish, to saving time to cook during a busy week. But how often do people in Bulgaria eat out?

The results from this study reveal that the 45% of people in Bulgaria rarely eat out (less than once a month or never), with older people (65+ y/o), the unemployed and people part of a one-person-household being least likely to dine outside the home. The average amount of meals consumed outside the home per person is 1.12/week.

Men, younger people (15-29 y/o) and people with high household income (1900+ BGN) are significantly more likely to eat out at least once a week.

 

NIGHTTIME AND EMOTIONAL EATING

While both of these eating habits are not wildly popular in Bulgaria, having a snack when feeling down is far more common than reaching for food at night.

Nighttime eating has been linked to weight gain, among other things. The good news is that the majority of people in Bulgaria (72%) “never” get up at night to eat, while 28% of people do have a bite at night with varying frequency. People between 15-29 y/o are significantly more likely to “regularly” eat at night than any other age group, while 65+ y/o are the least likely age group to have a midnight snack.

“Emotional eating” is the ingestion of food when feeling negative emotions such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, etc. It often presents itself as a way of soothing these negative emotions. Emotional eating could sabotage one’s efforts to lose weight, as this eating habit is often linked with high-calorie intake Just over half of all participants in this study report that they engage in emotional eating, mostly “rarely” (37%), with only 3% saying they “always” eat when feeling down.

Contrary to popular belief this eating habit is equally popular among men and women, while younger people (15-29 y/o) – 24%, and the unemployed (30%) are most likely to practice it. The least likely people to reach for food when feeling stressed, unhappy, angry or bored are individuals over 65 y/o (62%), people with low or no income (62%) and people coming from single-member-household (58%).

 

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Physical activity, like consuming a healthy diet, plays an important part in people's health and overall well-being, but how often do Bulgarians exercise and is that enough?

Physical activity plays an important part in leading a healthy lifestyle. Current guidelines recommend being physically active in one form or another everyday. Adults aged between 19 to 65 should strive to exercise for 150 min/week with moderate intensity or 75 min/week with vigorous intensity. Either way, it is advisable to be physically active at least once a week.

When it comes to exercising, Bulgaria is a nation divided – 52% exercise regularly (at least once a week), while 48% are physically active less than 3 times a month or never.

Also, men and younger people (15-29 y/o) are physically active significantly more often than women and the other age groups, with people aged 65 and over being the age group least likely to ever exercise.

The eating habits and purchase behavior of the population are constantly changing due to new research findings, food and wellness fads and shifting personal beliefs, which is why it is important to continue to explore the Food and Drink ever-transforming landscape and stay on top of public opinion and behavior.

 

 

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