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Please let’s stop eating rubbish

Sun, 16 April, 2023

We talk about polarisation in politics and culture wars, but even food attitudes swing from one extreme to the other. You get the radical diet gurus who cut out all sugar and carbs for ever (this dude is allegedly a doctor and always looks like he’s starving, no surprise) and go OMAD (one meal a day) which is so extreme I could not think clearly about anything but how hungry I was all day.

On the other end, and that’s a much wider group, people who feed themselves and their kids junk, junk and more junk. I witnessed a lady at a Tesco checkout recently with three distinctly unruly kids she was struggling to control. In her bagging area: Haribos, crisps and some mega-sized packets of biscuit bars. That was surely going to make the kids calm and focused.

Junk food in general, not just sweets, is abundant, cheap and aggressively marketed. We have gone in our weekly shop from buying ingredients out of which to prepare meals, to buying whole, finished meals that require just nuking in the microwave. And that’s supermarket shop: I’ve not even mentioned takeaways.

Obesity statistics in the UK have gone from 1% in the 1950s to almost 30% now. A third of the population is clinically obese! And there is not a shade of the doubt that it’s the availability of ultra-processed foods that is principally to blame.

When even sliced bread is more loaded with salt than crisps, it’s truly frightening to think of the contents of the colourful packets or trays. Too much sugar and salt, not enough protein or fibre, which leaves us hungry after consuming a huge amount of calories. It’s a fast track to obesity and no amount of ‘body positivity’ is going to change the fact that it puts the obese person at risk of serious disease.

Absolutely any food you prepare from scratch is going to be better than processed, ready meals, however ‘healthy’ or ‘low in sugar’ they should be marked. It doesn’t matter if you add salt, sugar, butter or bacon to your home cooking, within reason – you’ll still be better off eating it than the ready supermarket or takeaway alternatives.

Starting from breakfast, it’s not only nutritiously superior to mix your own muesli or toast granola, but hugely cheaper as well. The same goes for cereal bars and flapjacks – and you can make a big batch at a time because these things keep.

I completely understand that not everyone can afford artisan sourdough instead of Hovis white, but why no try your hand at baking a basic white loaf? That’s going to be only flour, water and yeast instead of God knows how many additives and preservatives.

I’ll never comprehend people who buy ready pasta dishes. Pasta is shockingly easy and quick to make from scratch, whether it’s mac and cheese or the simplest pasta with crunchy breadcrumbs and capers. The same goes for rice: if you cook a lot of plain rice once a week and freeze it in portions, you have a fried rice dish ready in a jiffy on a weeknight.

Soups from a tin or cardboard packet! When how to cook soup is probably the easiest recipe of all and it’s impossible to get it wrong, be it broccoli and stilton, leek and potato or a chicken soup with noodles.

And then there are biscuits and cakes. Unless you buy those from an excellent bakery or a specialist pâtissier, your homemade, however simple confections will be better for you than packets of sweets. That’s starting with children’s favourite snickerdoodles and ending with Battenberg which is pure fun to make.

I know that the people who should be reading articles like this are not the people who do, but still hope this encourages one or two of my readers to swap something processed for home cooked. Happy cooking!

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About me

Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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