The chocolate cake recipe we used for my son’s birthday last week included courgettes and beetroot. The look on my seven-year-old nephew’s face when we told him after he had devoured his third piece was a picture.
I mention this in the wake of an IGD-led initiative announced this week on the topic of composite foods.
Aside from the fact that this is a dreadful term, it makes a very valid point: that fruit and veg can lurk, hidden, in all sorts of ready meals and other pre-prepared (ie processed) foods. It even calls for acknowledgement of half portions. Hey, why not, when some women are eating even less than half a portion a day?
But there’s also a responsibility on the part of manufacturers and retailers, and I really think more can be done to sneak fruit and veg into everyday products.
Information is power, they say, and to some extent it is.
A report this week in the British Medical Journal on the effectiveness of mandatory calorie labelling in New York City found one in six reduced their calorie consumption, which is a start. And I know, from first-hand experience, that choice can be influenced by labels: the welcome addition of front-of-pack calorie counts certainly influenced my recent ice cream choice (a Solero, in case you asked, yet at 90 calories its traffic light sugar score would be the same as a 260-calorie Magnum, natch).
But to achieve health, we also need to employ stealth. And that’s why I welcome another new US initiative, this time by McDonald’s, to lower the calorie count in its Happy Meals by halving the portion of fries and upping the nutritional value with a portion of apples. OK, so the meal is still 600-odd calories, but that’s 20% better than the 750 calories it’s been.
Initiatives like this, or Starbucks’ switch to semi-skimmed milk as standard or the inclusion of hidden courgettes and beetroot will enable shoppers to sleepwalk their way to a more healthy diet. And be far more effective than 100 labels.