Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last fortnight, you might have heard the announcement – after many, many years of being told that we should be consuming 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, they’ve only gone and upped the stakes. Forget 5 – these days it’s all about 7. And that’s not all – this magic number should be made up of at least 5 portions of vegetables. That’s all very well and good, but for many of us, no matter how well-intentioned, the prospect of filling our 5 quota was a mission in itself, especially when we’re responsible for our family’s intake too.
On the one hand, I’ve always been a bit sceptical about the inclusion of dried, tinned and juiced fruit in this category. Growing up with a mother who was very up on all the things that could do damage to our teeth, I’ve always appreciated the fact that no matter how much fibre and nutritional content they contain, you just can’t sell all that sugar as a good thing. So in this context, it makes sense that the government should be singing the praises of the vegetables as opposed to all the sweet stuff too. However, the prospect of adhering to the new guidelines is still a daunting one, and I’m not the only one who thinks so– research has shown that the 5-a-day campaign was hardly a qualified success, so should they be heading in this direction? I’m not knocking the health benefits of such a scheme, but at the same time, making it a chore is perhaps not the best way to go about encouraging people.
Should the onus be on us as the consumers? Think about all the other food-related policy issues that make the news these days, namely too much of this, that and the other in processed foods and takeaways. And why do a lot of families choose to eat processed food and takeaways more often? Because modern life is draining and time-consuming and at the end of a hard day, the thought of preparing a meal that, according health officials, should have a list of requirements attached to it, might not be at the top of everyone’s list of priorities. Perhaps if they took into account modern eating habits a bit more, they might base their blanket prescriptions on these instead of some traditional notion that a ‘normal’ family unit can sit down together with a plate full of vegetables every evening. I don’t mean to come over all ‘nanny state’ but perhaps the government should be regulating what goes into processed foods a bit more – increase the vegetable content of these might not make huge waves straight away, but surely small ripples are better than nothing.
Also encouraging supermarkets to improve the quality of their everyday fruit and vegetable selection could have more of an impact. Yesterday, I purchased some yellow plums from a chain that will remain nameless and they were virtually inedible, being almost dry and completely lacking in any discernable flavour. Ok, so I bought them because they appeared to be particularly good value, but surely this shouldn’t matter. Supermarkets, started selling tasty and affordable fruit and vegetables and we might start eating more of it.
Of course we should upping our vegetable intake, but for this to catch on, people need to be doing it for more than just health reasons – they need to be eating more vegetables because they WANT to eat more vegetables. Basically, health officials need to make this a more attractive proposition, or again, these recommendations just aren’t going to wash.