Thursday, 8 September 2011

Courgette bolognese anyone?

I haven't ranted on this blog for a while so indulge me while I have a go at my latest bugbear - the so called "Healthy Food Swap".

It's everywhere. In leaflets my son brings home from school, in magazines, on web the supermarket. Everywhere I look I am being urged to swap crisps for carrots and biscuits for apples. Although I understand the underlying principle and agree that it's better for our health - and to some extent weight - to eat more fresh foods and less of the processed stuff, this type of message makes me want to scream and tear my hair out and rant. So it's a good thing I have this blog to vent my frustration!

Do they really think that people are so ignorant? Do they really imagine that someone about to dive headlong into the biscuit tin is suddenly going to decide to opt for carrot sticks instead? That all they needed was a reminder because they'd forgotten all about the existence of carrot sticks? Isn't that just missing the point?  Frankly if I've had a crap day and want to drown my sorrows in a bag of chocolate buttons, a fistful of dried apricots just ain't gonna cut it, Mr. Government-Healthy-Eating-Campaign-man - no matter how many times you shove your healthy tips in my face! 

As usual, this type of diet advice completely ignores the fact that 99% of us know very well that a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice is better for us than a bucketful of Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream, mini mallows and chocolate shavings...or is it? What if a Caramel Frappuccino with all the trimmings hits the spot? What if it's exactly what I fancy, right now, right here. What if it's part of a healthy, balanced diet which includes lots of apples, oranges and carrots (just not in this precise instant). What if I really fancy something creamy and smooth? How is an acidic, lumpy glass of orange juice going to help? Maybe I'll just have to eat a double choc chip muffin to take the edge of it - a muffin I wouldn't have had if I'd stuck to the Frappuccino. Back to square one....

Worse, and even more ludicrous are these "Healthy Swap Tips" I saw in a magazine recently:

"Replace spaghetti with thinly cut ribbons of courgette and serve with Bolognese sauce."

"Swap bread soldiers with your boiled egg for celery sticks."

I mean, come on! Spaghetti and bolognese...soft boiled eggs and toast - these are foods made for each other, they have been married for ever. They are classics, eaten by generation after generation, in the four corners of the world. Seriously, WHO is going to swap spaghetti for courgette ribbons??!  Spag bol is spag bol, if I want courgettes, there are a million ways  to eat them that don't involve smothering them in a sauce intended for pasta. Same with celery. Quite apart from the fact that the idea of celery dripping in egg yolk makes my stomach churn, surely there's better things to do with celery than dunking it in a boiled egg? 

So please Ms. Resident Nutritionist at the magazine I won't name because some of the recipes are fab - choose some other foods to pick on and spare us your weird and improbable swaps.

Rant over. Thank you for listening.


  1. I agree. I send my two daughters to school with a packed lunch and sometimes they'll ask me for jam or chocolate spread sandwiches (yummy!), instead of a more healthy pate and salad sarnie, say. I have to tell them that school rules say that they aren't allowed it and that if I send them to school with jam sarnies and the dinner staff notice it'll be taken away from them and they'll be given school dinners which they may not fancy at all AND I'll have to pay for it which I really resent because it wasn't my choice for them to have it.

    This has happened in the past because in the opinion of the dinner staff, my younger daughter didn't have enough to eat even though that's all she had been eating that week and the excess had been coming back home again. If that's all she wants at the time, why not. I'll top her up when she gets home. My children have a basically healthy choice of foods. The school have to spout the Government line on things but don't bother to ask if the rest of the child's diet is healthy, they only know what they see. Which is only part of the picture. But they don't look at it that way. Grrr...

    Sharon, Bristol

  2. I certainly wouldn't dream of replacing spaghetti with courgette but I DO have a friend (really really not me!) who recommended replacing half a portion of rice (e.g served with stir-fry) with snipped BEANSPROUTS! As if that's going to satisfy... If you don't need all the rice just EAT LESS RICE!

    Sorry, you've got me into rant mode too... :)

  3. Sharon, do the British school really looks into children's sandwiches?! I'm shocked! Nobody did that in my country. Luckily, I suppose, considering amounts of butter, cheese and greasy sausages we had :D

  4. I work in a school and find it really hard telling children they have to eat all their lunch up before they go out to play, so I don't! But I hear other staff telling children that they have to eat all their sandwiches, fruit, crisps ets before they can eat the chocolate bar! To me that is just encouraging overeating. If a child tells me they have had enough, I say are you sure? If they say yes, then off they go! But I am surreptitious as this is not towing the party line! But I just cannot make a child (or anyone else for that matter) sit and eat if they don't want to! Or withhold the chocolate until they have stuffed themselves silly in order to get to eat the thing they really want to eat!
    The children who have special needs (ie autism) do not come under such scrutiny and can eat their lunch in peace. I have noticed that several of them eat the pudding or choc bar first and then the savoury (oo-er!!!) and guess what? they still eat a good bit of maincourse.
    It is crazy all this 'nanny-state' piffle. If children are hungry they eat, if they don't want to eat at lunch then i am sure they will more than make up for it when they get home.
    My own children asked me not to send in too much food in their packed-lunches as the dinner ladies made then sit and eat it all before they were allowed out to play. I had been sending in quite a bit so they had a choice of what they fancied at the time!! I was happy for them to have any uneaten food sent back for another time and certainly didn't expect them to eat it all! Well we learnt that lesson.

  5. My son got a sweet off the dinner lady yesterday for eating all of his school dinner!! I wouldnt mind he would probably eat it all anyway because he chooses what he likes and the portion sizes arent very big. I always tell him to leave what he doesnt want.

  6. couldn't agree more about food swaps; they are usually just not worth it

    but the courgette ribbons did remind me of a v good Simon Hopkinson recipe of courgette ribbons WITH pasta - and olive oil and parmesan of course.....


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