Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Can You Really Eat For A Pound A Day?

by GIll Richards
Are well-meaning people playing into politicians' hands by trying to prove it is possible to eat for a pound a day? Is this action going to further damage health in an already unhealthy society? Has anyone else realised that the supermarkets who are toying with our health by adding salt, sugar and additives to enhance their 'value' ranges are being actively promoted by 'Live below the Line'?

I understand and support the concept we should think about others in the world, but doesn't charity begin at home? I donate a few items each week for a local family who are struggling to make ends meet. There are people so close by who are unable to eat and drink properly and that really does tug at my heartstrings. As for the recommendation to drink tap water.....well, drag me off the ceiling. Whether we are in the UK or over in Spain I would not let my children drink tap water.

Well-meaning the campaign surely is and it is supported by 'celebs', meaning lots of media coverage. Sorry though, I could not and would not support this, nor inflict it on my family or pets.

I appreciate the good-will behind five days of living on a quid and raising funds for charity. As a responsible parent, I constantly harry my children about waste. They would be very wealthy if they had a Pound Sterling or a Euro for each time they have heard me say 'there are children starving in.....' There is no food wasted in our home. Anything which is left over is given to our dogs and cats and because of our healthy eating habits it is fine for them to eat too.

I am on a very strict budget, but I could not deliberately feed my children an unhealthy diet, supporting the view of Mr IDS that he can live on 53 quid a week. Children need decent nutrition, they have to go to school and have the energy to learn, study, play and exercise. If you are a parent, are you happy to neglect the health of your own children to help others because of the restrictions of the local government? I am not, even for 5 days.

I monitor my food intake for health reasons, so I was very uncomfortable with the advice being given. I am not alone in having food allergies! The official 'Live below the line' website has a free recipe book and advice, which of course, because of my studies, I downloaded......unless I am mistaken, I am unable to find any recipe I can eat without becoming ill. I eat a LOT, although not in huge meals.

If I don't eat, I am hungry and have no energy to work or look after my family and family pets. I eat healthy food. If I was hungry I could not function and by eating well I take responsibility for my health.

According to the online recipe book for 'Live below the Line', one of the primary ingredients for a 'healthy' salad is as follows: Value tinned garden peas, containing..... Water, Sugar, Salt, Colours (Tartrazine, Green S), Mint Extract.. I am not going to preach about salt and sugar intake. I will about eating fresh food and avoiding Tartrazine.....look it up people, it is not good, it has a serious adverse effect on one of my children and also on myself as an individual who is allergic to aspirin.

So, getting back to the point, is it wise to advise the UK population that a diet of porridge, cheap pasta, sugary jam, potatoes, white bread, margarine (!) and cooking bacon is acceptable? Surely it would be more beneficial to campaign for food vouchers for low income families so they can purchase healthy food, along with advice on healthy eating, menu plans which are not laden with salt, sugar and additives, ready-made shopping lists to make it easy for busy people?

If you have time on your hands have a look at the ingredients in the value canned vegetables and fruit recommended.....salt, sugar.....plus the recipes advise you to add more salt. I may as well allow my kids to feast on junk 24/7 and look forward to the day when they suffer from heart disease, diabetes, become obese........

I cannot eat some foods because they make me ill. I am not feeling sorry for myself, it is just how it is. Food intolerance or allergy and health restrictions are not considered in this exercise. I was concerned that Miss Monroe, who was giving advice on the BBC Breakfast programme (and now has a book deal on the basis of her blog), has a young son, and was advocating the use of cheap cooking bacon as an acceptable source of protein! 'Cheap bacon' is cheap for a reason, is more than likely pumped full of water, massive amounts of salt and goodness knows what else. Where was the oily fish, the lean meat, the huge variety of fresh, reasonably priced, healthy vegetable proteins we have at our disposal these days?

As a mother, I spend a lot of time each week making sure my family eat a healthy, balanced diet. I am on a strict budget, but my family get their five a day and more, which would not be possible with the recommended small mixed box of vegetables once a week.

Most startling was that the prices given were based on a teaspoon of this and one of that, all of which you could not possibly buy in a teaspoon measure! You would have to spend a full 'big shop' budget to have all those ingredients in place. Someone please tell me where I can buy one teaspoon of mayonnaise for each bean burger I may make for my kids? When do kids, when allowed access to the mayo, take just one teaspoon? I strongly suspect Miss Monroe was not really living on one pound a day.

Equally startling was the use of battery eggs because they are cheaper, although you have to buy 30 at a time, sending the pennies way over the budget. My family would prefer to do without eggs, thank you so much. The cheap ham sandwich on white bread with no salad is not a healthy lunch. The bread may swell up and fill your tummy for a short while, but the cheap ham, like the bacon, is full of water, salt and lots of other nasty things Get out clause for this on the website is to 'share' food for the five days with other people on the same scheme, so who keeps the mayo and cheap, nasty ham in their fridge, or do you rotate?

I was interested to hear that Jack Monroe, when challenged on fuel costs stated she cooks a casserole on the hob in 30 minutes. It takes a lot longer for me to create a healthy casserole or soup and my boys love them. She then revealed the meat used in the casseroles was cooking bacon. Never a mention of a slow cooker.....are they the work of the devil now? If you shop around you can find a slow cooker with a variety of settings, which uses only slightly more energy than a single light bulb. Did anyone mention pressure cookers? No, they are not fashionable any more -- they are amazing for making soups and stews and saving energy on the hob.

Our eldest son has recently moved into his first apartment share with a friend. We were invited for dinner as a reward for helping out this week. He told me he was making chips.....CHIPS, I was stunned! The 'chips' turned out to be healthy, oven baked potato wedges (with the skin still on, seasoned with paprika, just like Mama makes!). Just goes to show that children and young adults are very receptive to healthy eating advice if given in the right way and eating habits are established. My kids have been cooking with me since they were 'teeny-tinies', standing on a chair next to me. It is a bonding exercise, if nothing else.

Time and money could be better spent on protesting in a peaceful way about the state some families live in, making sure they know how to feed themselves properly and healthily on a sensible budget and supporting the local community. Diabetes, obesity and heart disease are all on the rise which is a massive drain on public resources. This stunt doesn't help to solve any of them.

So, what does the publicity that it is possible to eat for a pound a day really teach our children? It gives them an unrealistic belief and unhealthy eating habits.

What does it teach us? It is not nice to be hungry and governments need to be put under pressure to remove the need for food banks and unhealthy food. Time for action to be sure, but is this really the right way?

Gill has worked coaching many people and ran a successful health and beauty clinic in the UK. Now working between the UK and southern Spain, Gill is also advising on nutrition and healthy eating. http://www.es-cape.es