Dear readers! I have to apologise. When I started this blog in November last year I did so with the unexpressed but underlying intention of updating it on a more or less regular basis with hilarious or outrageous stories from my life among Brits. These efforts have of late been severely thwarted by a lady thing. I am pregnant.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a joyous time in my life. I get to study every nook and cranny of the four toilet bowls in our house (and some outside our house, too) intensively, wear bras double the size of my usual cups, get loads of exercise running to the loo every 15 minutes and my little monster lifts up my shirt in public, proudly announcing to complete strangers “There is a baby!”. At the same time I have to battle with a few adversities though such as being forced to take an afternoon nap every day, comb through more and more hair every morning or eat healthily. Seriously, judging by what the little parasite in me has me crave, he/she seems to be wanting to become a vegetarian.
Which finally brings me back to the topic of this post – food choices.
Before anyone is tempted to pigeonhole me, I am NOT a health food fanatic, vegetarian or otherwise exceedingly conscious of what is ending up in my stomach. My BMI which has traditionally hovered somewhere around the upper limits of “normal” will vouch for that. Although I have to admit that raising a child and cooking for him and myself on a regular basis has certainly made me more aware of what’s out there – and how simple things can markedly improve his and my good food vs. bad food balance. Granted, wading the shallows of preservatives, additives, organic, bio, processed or – god forbid – genetically engineered food can be intimidating and time-consuming. However, it is not rocket science to know that an apple trumps a chocolate muffin.
For some reason, this subcategory of common sense doesn’t seem to be overly developed here on the island. It simply boggles my mind how often I see toddlers and children in the park around lunch time, snacking away on a bag of crisps*. I mean, how much harder is it to wash a few grapes or cut up two peaches and put them into a resealable plastic container before you leave for the playground with your little ones instead of pocketing a bag of crisps?!
Unfortunately, crisps seem to be a main staple of the British diet. They almost always come in these handy 80g packages (sold individually or, much cheaper, in wholesale amounts, i.e. huge bags that compete in size with my 3-year old – I kid you not!). And you will struggle to find a set meal outside a sit-down restaurant that doesn’t include a packet of crisps.
Make them organic, hand-made, from 100% British potatoes, whatever; it doesn’t change the fact that crisps are junk food, period. Including them in your (or worse, your kids’) meals on a daily basis will play havoc with your and their health. The fact that the UK is leading the obesity statistics in Europe in nearly every demographic should suffice as proof. Although British dietary mainstays like pies (I’m talking the pasty, greasy, meat-derivative filled variety), sausage rolls (Don’t ask! – If you have to know, google it) or the traditional fish and chips might have a good chunk of complicity in this sad record.
The funny thing is that, where I come from, you can’t even buy chips in snack-sized bags. Which obviously is a positive thing not just from a waste avoidance point of view. If I really want to treat my child to some potato chips (maybe because I am craving them and don’t want him to have to leave the room) I can always give him some from a big bag. Or cut up a watermelon instead. Of course this approach would require a modicum of self-control and a basic knowledge of what’s desirable in food choices.
But then, what do I expect from a country that has to mark fruit and vegetables with a specifically designed logo for people to know that these are the healthy options and how much of them to consume? Whenever I see the “5 a day” sign on a punnet of strawberries I always imagine some nitwit scrutinising a packet of crisps, wondering why on earth it doesn’t count as one of his “5 a day”, seeing that they are made from potatoes.
* For my confused non-British readers: crisps are what the rest of the world calls chips, whereas chips over here are fries elsewhere. Easy, or not?