No doubt you will have seen the government’s Change4Life campaign this year. It is a subject that the government tackle most years, the focus being slightly different each time. The website tells you how many have signed up, but of course, not how many have dropped out.
There is absolutely no doubt that the health of the nation has to be addressed, but it is sad that the supporters have had their two-penn’orth. Have a look at the partners. In amongst some well-intentioned organizations you will see, Pepsi, Danone, Mars, McCain and Unilever (Flora and many more brands). Some of these are billionaire multinational conglomerates. Why are they here? I could speculate but I think it is better if you do the thinking.
The overall recommendations fall short of a healthy diet and the “swaps” are downright wrong. Being generous, there are degrees of “healthy diet”. No doubt the recommendations would improve the health of some, but why give false information? Far better we learn the truth about food from day one and frankly, saying that sugar-free fizzy drinks are better than their original counterparts is just wrong. This is literally swapping one range of illnesses for another. Not only is the sweetener aspartame (Canderel pink) dangerous to health, but sweetened foods and drinks can also lead to obesity and diabetes.
“Watch out for the hidden nasties!” is the catch-phrase that is used on the Change4Life website. But what about all these “nasties”? Artificial flavours, colours and preservatives abound. We should not be advocating changing sugary drinks for artificially sweetened drinks. We should be suggesting swaps that contribute to our health. Water (even fizzy water), tea, milk and fermented milk drinks give us true hydration and positive nutrition. (Even water contains minerals.) Here are the ingredients for Diet Pepsi:
Carbonated Water, Colour (Caramel E150d), Flavourings (including Caffeine), Phosphoric Acid, Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), Acidity Regulator (Sodium Citrate), Preservative (Potassium Sorbate), Citric Acid, Contains a source of Phenylalanine.
…and for water:
And what about the low fat swaps? If you believe that we need to restrict saturated fat, you are likely to go along with these recommendations. The advice is to choose low-fat dairy products – semi-skimmed milk, low fat cheese and yogurts. When you do this, you lower the intake of saturated fat – and thus the all-important fat-soluble vitamins – but increase that of potentially toxic additives! This is a list of the ingredients for Shape (owned by Danone)low-fat mango yogurt:
Yogurt (Skimmed Milk, Skimmed Milk Concentrate, Milk Proteins, Yogurt Cultures), Water, Mango (6%), Fibre (Oligofructose), Stabilisers (Modified Maize Starch, Carrageenan), Sweeteners (Aspartame, Acesulfame K), Acidity Regulators (Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate), Flavouring, Colour (Paprika Extract).
…and for Total Greek yogurt:
Pasteurised Cows’ Milk, Milk Cream, Live Active Yoghurt Cultures
To me the swap should be to full fat natural yogurt – not a yogurt brimming with artificial ingredients.
There is another advertisement that troubles me – for Cheese Strings. I don’t have huge issues with this product but there is a statement on screen, “Children should consume no more than a small matchbox size piece of cheese a day and low fat choices are more suitable.” I cannot find the origin of the statement and neither do I agree with it. As always, it is your whole diet which makes a difference to your health – for better or worse. Singling out one food like this is a very poor way to educate us about nutrition. For all the information this provides, as long as there is one matchbox sized piece of cheese in your child’s lunchbox, it would be fine to put in a bag of crisps, a chocolate biscuit and a bottle of pop. Full fat cheese is a wonderfully nutritious food and inexpensive too. Most children find it very palatable (the taste-buds doing their job) so it is a great addition to a lunch box. For a primary school child – a bread wrap with cheese and salad, a natural full fat yogurt with a little apple puree stirred in and a bottle of water makes a good nutritious and substantial lunch. Add a few squares of chocolate if you want as a treat – (NOT the whole bar!)
To promote healthy eating, Change4Life’s campaign encourages the change to low fat and artificially sweetened food and drinks, from their full-fat and sugary counterparts. This is not the right way. Changing to a diet of whole fresh foods is the right way. I normally advise organic food but small changes are easier to manage. One step at a time!