Research report

Consumption of discretionary foods and drinks and other categories of dietary concern in adults (16+ years)

4 documents for this subject


This report provides up-to-date information on the consumption of discretionary foods and additional categories considered within policy proposals for the restriction of promotions.

Analyses have been based on Intake24 data collected within the Scottish Health Survey for 2021 for 3,042 adults (16+ years) in Scotland.

Key findings:

  • On average, discretionary foods and sugar-containing soft drinks provided 260 kcal per day, accounting for 15% of total energy intakes, 17% of total fat, 18% of saturated fat and 38% of free sugars intake.
  • Sweet biscuits were the biggest contributor to intakes of calories, fats and free sugars.  Sugar-containing soft drinks alone contributed an additional 9% to intakes of free sugars.
  • Whilst intakes of discretionary foods were greatest among the oldest age groups (75 years and above), younger adults aged between 16 – 35 years old consumed the greatest amount of sugar containing soft drinks. Intakes of sugar containing soft drinks was also greater among adults living in the most deprived areas, as was the contribution these drinks made to free sugars.
  • The mean intake from all additional categories was 124g/d, providing an average of 207 kcal per day and accounting for 13% of total energy intakes, 11% of total fat and free sugars intakes, and 10% of saturated fat intakes.
  • Of the additional foods, breakfast cereals contributed the most to energy, total fat and free sugars. The yoghurts, fromage frais and dairy desserts category was the top contributor to intakes of saturated fat, alongside pizza.
  • Men consumed a greater quantity of the additional categories combined compared to females, with a greater proportion of energy, fats and free sugars coming from these foods in 2021.
  • In total, discretionary foods, sugar-containing soft drinks and the additional foods contributed 28% to average intakes of calories, 28% to average intakes of total fat and saturated fat and 49% to average intakes of free sugars among adults in 2021.

The findings demonstrate that discretionary and additional foods contribute substantially to intakes of calories and nutrients of public health concern. Given that diet in Scotland is too high in saturated fat and free sugars in particular, measures which support consumers to consume fewer products high in fat, salt and sugar (including discretionary foods and drinks) would contribute towards achieving our Scottish Dietary Goals.

Erratum: The report was updated on 6th November 2023. The total figure for intakes of total fat and saturated fat for combined discretionary foods, sugar-containing soft drinks and additional categories for all respondents has been updated to 28%. This is due to an addition error. Download the full report (including corrections) below.