Are We Sweet Enough Already? The Sugar Tax.

On Friday 6th April 2018 the Government’s sugar tax came into effect. Described as ‘ground-breaking’, the tax was introduced to encourage fundamental changes in companies production of fizzy drinks.

The tax was unveiled by George Osborne in the 2016 Budget to come into effect two years later in April 2018, giving manufacturers an opportunity to address their recipes.

The levy is being imposed on manufacturers who in turn are then likely to pass onto consumers. There are two tiers of tax;

  • 18p per litre on drinks with more than 5g per 100ml
  • 24p per litre on drinks with more than 8g per 100ml

Immediate reports are already suggesting that the levy has proved a great success with 50% of all drinks have had their sugar content reduced ahead of the new levy coming into effect.

The original red Coca Cola and blue Pepsi have kept their recipes unchanged stating that they cannot amend their award winning formula that people know and love. They are instead proposing to use smaller bottles which will be sold at higher prices.

Will the levy work longer term? There is  concern about the  viability of some products, such as Irn-Bru, but on the whole the industry seems to be taking positive steps to help with the increasing issue of obesity. Time will undoubtedly tell – but I don’t think that the levys will stop here.

Whilst a good step forward, it would be nice to also see ‘healthy’ foods become more affordable thus encouraging people to buy them as opposed to the unhealthy alternatives….

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Unprocessed: The ‘Rules’

As I walked in to work this morning I re-listened to The Food Programme’s podcast from 16th October 2017 called ‘How We Eat: Eating By The Rules’. The concept of strict rules has always been one that I’ve disagreed with simply because if someone says you can’t have something – you’ll only want it more.

However, listening again to the podcast has actually made me realise that some people need rules, and that by having rules to adhere to – they can actually start to enjoy food more. It seems a bit contradictory that the creation of rules actually liberates people, but consider this; by following the rules, people can eat a little more guilt-free.

That concept to me, makes total sense. In the absence of any guidelines – be it financially, in work or in food – it’s easy to spiral out of control. I found this last year at work, where I increasingly found myself working 11-12 hour days in the office before crawling into my bed only to do the same the next day. A new year resolution of realising there is more to life then just work has seen me reduce my working day to 9 hours, making sure I take a lunch break and reclaiming evenings for ME.

Similarly with eating – with a bit of preparation, eating unprocessed means I regularly treat myself to a flapjack or chocolate cookie – with the luxury of knowing exactly what has gone in to it and therefore being confident that I’m filling my body with nutritious food and not lots of preservatives. I’m trying to be very careful not to use the words ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ as I don’t think what we eat falls simply into these two categories – and there are large degrees of variance – such as I suppose a fresh piece of Brie from your local deli could be considered processed – but to a much lesser degree (in my opinion) to say a McDonald’s burger. Gosh, I never thought that brand would feature on this blog!

Thinking about it now, perhaps it’s the word ‘rules’ that I struggle with – it takes me back to being in the playground at school. Swapping the word for something a bit softer such as guidelines or tips sits a bit better with me.

In the absence of any guidelines, we’re in danger of eating things with very little nutrition – so in essence it’s about education, preparation and a degree of discipline. But – it’s also about realising that we are all human, and if you really crave something, then as long as it’s proportionate – just have it! But – make sure you enjoy it! Dare I say it (speaking from experience) you probably actually won’t end up enjoying it quite as much as you thought you would – which plays back into the idea of following the rules to guilt-free eating…but you’ll only learn this by trial and error, so go for it!

Eating unprocessed is not about watching the calories but instead about watching the type of food you eat. Going back to basics and knowing what you’re putting in your body.

I would generally consider myself as someone that has always eaten fairly healthily, saves as for a very sweet tooth for pick ‘n’ mix (I don’t think you can get much more processed than that, and sadly I’m yet to find a suitable substitute!). However, when I started looking at the packets of food I was eating, I was shocked to realise the extent of processed foods. I’d expected it from most crisps and all sweets – but didn’t expect it quite as much from ‘natural’ cereal bars and organic flavoured yoghurt.

Guidelines for Eating Unprocessed

  1. The Kitchen Rule – if you can reasonably make it at home in your kitchen, then it’s good to go
  2. Ingredients – what Does It Say? – have a look at the ingredients, if you don’t recognise one of them as a whole food, put the packet back down and walk away
  3. Go Organic – I was surprised by this initially as there is so much information on do or don’t go organic – but organic produce is grown without pesticides, fertilisers etc
  4. Preparation is key – make it easy on yourself when preparing lunches and breakfasts so you’re not stuck in the supermarket wading through the ingredients on the back of every sandwich in Sainsburys at lunchtime
  5. Eat Seasonal – less preservatives and air miles = a happier fruit or vegetable, oh and planet!

In a time where we’re constantly striving for perfection, the last thing that we need to do is put even more pressure on ourselves to be something that we’re not – and so creating rule after rule will surely only make us go stir-crazy….but the allure of some simple guidelines that allow us to live (and of course eat) guilt-free and to just be ourselves – now that I can understand….

Unprocessed: What’s It All About?

Over the past year or so the ‘clean eating’ brigade have received quite a lot of bad press, some possibly deserved and others perhaps not. This led me to reflect on what I had hoped to achieve when I embarked on eating ‘unprocessed’ and more importantly what message I was trying to deliver to others.

This reflection has led me to take a step back over the last few weeks and looking at what eating unprocessed means to me, what benefits it offers (and negatives of course), how anyone can achieve eating unprocessed easily and how our food culture is already adapting to the concept.

I’ll be writing a series of blogs over the next few weeks looking at this and hopefully giving you some useful tip and guidance so that you can create your own concepts that work for you.  Continue reading

Welcome to 2017

  1. Reducing sugar

This had a large focus in 2016, and it looks set to continue in 2017 with the Government emphasising the importance of its reduction too. As a result, expect to see products such as vegetable yoghurts becoming more popular – oh yes, put that sweet breakfast yoghurt away and pick up a savoury yoghurt. Here’s hoping they taste better than they sound!

  1. Low & no alcohol drinks.

Although it may not have felt like it on Sunday morning, we are a generation that drink less than the last, and put an emphasis on the quality of the type of alcohol as opposed to the quantity.

With an increase in people wanting to catch up over a late night coffee or maybe even a mocktail – maybe this year will see more late night cafes and maybe even a non-alcoholic bar?!

Chances are we’ll see an increase in non-alcoholic spirits such as Seedlip, the world’s very first – https://www.seedlipdrinks.com/

  1. Sea Vegetables

 

  1. Zero Waste –

We’re on a mission of reducing food waste that is set to continue into 2017. Expect to see an increase in restaurants using perfectly health and edible ‘waste food’ to create more culinary masterpieces.

  1. Healthy Snacks

I’ve always been one for grazing ALL day as opposed to focusing on three set meals. Gone are the days of three meals and no snacking – so wait to see more sharing small plates and healthier high-protein bites or snacks to keep us grazing all day long!

  1. Poke Bowls
  2. Health Fast Foods

CLEAN EATING: PART 2

So, you’ve heard why ‘clean eating’ deserves at least a second thought, but how to hop on the bandwagon without falling straight back off? As we’ve eluded to in the last post, we’re now busier and busier, meaning that the time set aside for cooking and preparing food has dramatically fallen. Thankfully ‘clean eating’ doesn’t have to be as time consuming as you may think – and now many cafes, supermarkets and restaurants have realised the benefits and offer a wide range of delicious and satisfying foods that will nicely fall into the bracket of ‘clean’.

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking at how you can eat clean without resorting to a diet of celery and carrot sticks, we’ll have a look at a few simple recipes, what chefs and other bloggers are saying, and what to look for when buying food.

Probably the most important thing I’ve learnt over the past 8 months is to be realistic, and if you really want something – just have it! Or, to try and find a substitute that satisfies your craving. Granted this won’t always work, so if you really can’t live without that packet of crisps, then don’t punish yourself. Just try to avoid doing it every day.

Other easy tips to help you are;

1. Choose food in it’s pure state

This is probably the easiest way to know exactly what you’re putting into your body – the fewer ingredients in the food you buy, the more confident that you can be that it’s ‘clean’

2. Eat seasonal as much as you can

I’ve raved about eating seasonal here before. Eating seasonal means that you’ll be likely to reduce the amount of chemicals pumped into your produce and you’ll also be reducing the amount of air miles – thus saving the planet one carrot at a time (heroic some would say!)

3. Try to shop local

The link between this and eating ‘clean’ isn’t always that obvious, so let me explain what I mean by local. If you can try to support your local fruit & veg shop, your local butcher and your local baker, you’re less likely to mindlessly throw some naughty snacks or processed food into your trolly– simply because there aren’t really any sold at these shops. The dreaded ‘middle-aisles’ of your large supermarket which are full of far too much temptation will be a thing of the past (at least until you walk past the local sweet shop!). If this isn’t possible, then just try to avoid the middle aisles of your chosen supermarket…just….don’t…even look at them – not even a sideways glance…you can do it!

4. Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail

Wherever possible, try to prepare as much of your food at home – specifically your breakfasts and lunches. Lunchtime particularly is such an easy time to fall off the wagon with that ready prepared sandwich from the shop next door. If you have a ready prepared fresh lunch in the fridge – I promise you’ll be less likely to nip out for a quick bite to eat.

5. The Eating Out Rule

Ok, so this may be a bit naughty, but life’s for living – right?! The last thing you want is to be dictating exactly where you eat out with your friends every time you see them. So, ease off the rules slightly when you’re going out for food – that’s not to say that a little bit of restraint shouldn’t be exercised, so just try to eat as close to ‘clean’ as you can. Oh, and this isn’t to say that you should be eating out every night too!

EATING CLEAN

Over the past century, the type and variety of food in our diet has changed with many chemicals and unknown ingredients being snuck in. In a world of busy people requiring quick meals and instant snacks, we’ve seen an increase in salts, sugar, refined carbohydrates and trans fats. Way back when, we evolved on a diet of unprocessed, natural foods, and as a result, our bodies are incapable of dealing with many of the products that we idly throw into them today.

The Main Culprits in ‘processed food’

Salt

The amount of salt in many processed foods can actually be shocking if you take the time to look at the nutritional information on the packaging – with many unsuspecting meals being jam-packed with over half of your daily recommended allowance.

Sugar

It’s no coincidence that people like Sarah Wilson have risen to fame advising about sugar and the affects that it can have on our health. I think it’s safe to say that this needs to be a topic on its own, and so there will be more to follow on this shortly.

Preservatives, Emulsifiers and Stabilisers

Removing these from my diet was the first step that I took to eating unprocessed. If you look at the packaging on many foods, you’ll see ingredients that I doubt you’ll be able to recreate easily in your kitchen – and some that you may never have even heard off! These are potentially harmful chemicals that are used to increase the longevity of various foods available on our shelves – but at what cost to our bodies?

The above shouldn’t come as much surprise to many of us, the information is clearly out there already, and we have enough people telling us what we should and should not eat.

But, what are the benefits to clean eating?

There are hundreds of claims about the advantages of clean eating, but I think its safe to say that the results are specific to each person, and the only way to find out is to just give it a go! The main things that I’ve noticed are; weight control, having more energy, improved digestion and a general sense of wellbeing (it may be me getting on my high horse!).

Immunity

Many clean foods can improve your immune system – for example blueberries are known to have excellent qualities. The quality that we are generally looking for is a high level of phytochemicals. Foods to look out for; apples, grapes, cocoa powder, cherries, tea, wine (yep, you heard that right!), walnuts and many more.

Weight control

I’m not going to harp on about this one, as I don’t think that it’s a good reason to eat clean. However, it deserves some recognition. It is agreed that nutrient-rich foods can keep your metabolism on its feet. Eating foods full of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants as opposed to processed chemicals can avoid spikes and falls in blood sugar as well as improved digestion.

Allergens

In a world where allergens and intolerances are becoming more recognised and understood – what easier way to ensure that you know exactly what’s going into our bodies by eating clean?

Up Next: How to Eat Clean….