Canadians are putting their grocery bill ahead of their nutrition, according to a new survey by consumer data company Caddle and Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab in Halifax.

The survey revealed that 45.5% of respondents said the cost of their groceries outweighed the importance of their food’s nutritional value in terms of what they are purchasing. 

While a majority of those same respondents, 63.3%, said that they are aware and concerned about the long term effects of compromising on healthy choices.  

When asked if their meat or protein consumption had gone down due to soaring food costs, 49.2% said yes.

“But generally speaking, Canadians are actually concerned about their own health due to higher food prices over the long term. That’s three out of five Canadians, which is a lot,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, in an interview with CTV News on Wednesday.

Higher income consumers were less likely to value the cost of their grocery bill over losing out on nutrition than those who were already struggling financially. 

“Of course, there’s always a way to balance things, regardless of what happens to food prices,” said Charlebois. “But it’s increasingly becoming more difficult for a growing number of Canadians.”

Respondents in Alberta and New Brunswick were the most likely to put cost over nutrition and Albertans were the most worried about the long-term effects of this decision, at 70%, however a majority of respondents in every province said they shared that fear. 

In terms of age groups, the Greatest Generation ranked the highest for putting cost of nutrition, at 55% with millennials close behind at 53% and Gen Z at 52.5%. 

Concerns for the compromise on long term health were most felt by millennials, who Charlebois said are ”clearly feeling the pressure right now” when it comes to concerns about money and health. 

“They probably have kids and so right now when they show up at the grocery store, they may not be earning the amount of money they need to buy the food they want in order to support a nutritious diet, unfortunately,” said Charlebois.

With the Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching this weekend, Canadians can expect to pay significantly more than they did in the past as Statistics Canada’s latest Consumer Price Index report revealed that the price of most food items increased year-over-year in August.

A majority of respondents said that they have “substantially” changed their shopping habits through the use of coupons, flyers and also loyalty programs. Almost half of those surveyed said they are considering growing their own food as a solution to rising inflation.  

Nearly 64% said they would choose a generic brand to save money and 59% said they were now shopping at discount stores. Around 50% said they shopped at supermarkets while 47% said they were now buying their groceries at dollar stores. 

A minority of respondents, 18.5% said they were shopping at farmer’s markets more frequently and 17% said they have increased their online shopping, while 13% said they were shopping at convenience stores. 

Most respondents said they were choosing to “increase the frequency of their store visits compared to the previous year in their quest to economize while grocery shopping.”

Around 79% of respondents said that had dramatically reduced their food waste over the past year. 

The survey was conducted in September and included a “representative” sample of 5,521 Canadians with a margin of error of 2.1%. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government met with Canada’s big five grocery store chain owners in hopes to come up with a plan to stabilize food prices with a deadline set for Thanksgiving. So far, nothing has materialized yet regarding this meeting.