1980s Diet Decade

Ready meals, pre-packed sandwiches, microwave meals and low fat foods – the 1980s have a lot to answer for when it comes to shaping our food habits.

So are we eating better now than we did 30 years ago? 

The National Obesity Forum compared the eating and cooking habits of 4,000 UK households from 1980 to 2012, and found that our eating habits got steadily worse over those three decade, with the time spent cooking a meal reduced from a full hour in 1980 to 34 minutes today. 

Fat fads

Dietary fat guidelines introduced in 1983 advised us to reduced our overall dietary fat intake to 30% of total energy intake and saturated fat to 10%, with a view that this would reduce our risk of coronary heart disease. This gave food manufacturers an opportunity to stock our trolleys with processed low fat foods packed with sugar and artificial sweeteners, but devoid such nutritional value. Thankfully, the fat guidelines are now being reviewed and questioned, and rather than demonising one particular nutrient, scientists are taking a ‘whole diet’ approach, with the emphasis on the quality of fat, rather than quantity.

1980s… low fat diets.

2016… a Mediterranean diet with ‘good fats’ from olive oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish

Trendy Diets

The F Plan Diet, Rosemary Conley’s Hip and Thigh diet and the Green Goddess on breakfast TV all shaped how we ate and exercised in the 80s. Suddenly diet gurus were everywhere and if you wanted to get ahead, you had to get a diet!

The F plan diet was a low fat, high fibre diet written by Audrey Eyton in 1982. It promoted a high-fibre, low-fat, calorie-controlled eating plan for weight loss. Rosemary Conley’s Hip & Thigh diet, published in 1988 was a low fat diet plan. Calorie counting was in and diet groups like Weight Watchers and Unislim were in every town and village. We were determined to change our ways and get thin.

1980s … eat less fat

2016… eat less sugar

Cooking methods


The addition of a microwave to the modern kitchen of the 1980s changed our eating habits. Suddenly you could ping a ready meal into a microwave and have dinner served in a flash. Vesta curry, pot noodle and microwave pizza meant that convenience food was as big as the hair in the 1980s.

1980s… microwaves and ready meals

2016 …microwaves and ready meals?…