News, Culture & Society

LIZ JONES: Why supermarket ‘healthy eating specialists should be avoided at all costs’ 

Get set for the Nutrition Nannies. They’re coming to a Waitrose aisle near you, wrestling shoppers to the ground to grab your back-fat with pincers, to wobble your jelly belly, to swap that Vesta Beef Curry for a raw turnip and to confiscate the Cadbury Whole Nut bar you’d sneaked in under the salad bags.

The upmarket supermarket is appointing 100 healthy eating specialists who will be easily identifiable by their ‘fleeces’ (I think what the firm really needs is the fashion police). ‘Customers might present a shopping basket with their purchases and ask for advice on alternatives with less fat, sugar or salt and fewer calories,’ a news story proclaimed last week.

But why stop at food? Will there be a Booze Babysitter in a fleece in the Antipodean wine aisle, next to a diseased liver in a jar? A critic by the DVDs? ‘Hmm. How To Be Single, not funny at all.’ Will there be a Relationship Counsellor in the baby aisle who will shrug shoulders at the Lycra-clad male lump in shorts alongside you who’d rather be home watching Arsenal? ‘Hmm… I’d get out while you can.’

Wouldn’t it be easier if customers could only access a supermarket if they can fit through a Keira Knightley-size template by the door or can drive a Chelsea tractor

Supermarkets wish to check shopper's trolleys to see the food they are buying 

Supermarkets wish to check shopper’s trolleys to see the food they are buying 

Rather than Nutrition Nannies, wouldn’t it be simpler to ban trolleys, and allow only one basket per person? Or since this is Waitrose, how about letting customers gain entry only if they fit inside a Keira Knightley-size template by the door, or can prove that they drive a Chelsea tractor?

And if we are going to talk about making good choices, will they let me stand in the chilled aisle in a T-shirt proclaiming ‘Meat is murder’ and ‘Dairy is scary’?

No, thought not. This is a big brand trying to seduce you into thinking they care, when it is supermarkets – the heinous assault course that is the weekly shop, the over-packaging, the misleading ‘farm’ labels, the two-for-ones and the perfect veg – that have made us and the planet unhealthy in the first place.

   

More from Liz Jones Column for The Mail on Sunday…

And to be honest, if you are lucky enough to shop in Waitrose, then you’re probably affluent enough to mainline Innocent wheatgrass and lemon smoothies without the help of Mary Poppins.

If you can only afford to shop in Lidl, you’re more likely to ponder whether to spend your last £4 on a family-pack of nuggets and a bottle of fizzy water (17p for two litres! Amazing!) or blow the lot on chunky KitKats. And I don’t blame them one bit.

Apparently, all the trendy people in East London are now buying pulses: split yellow peas, red lentils and black-eyed beans. That’s what used to be called peasant food. But eating healthily – ie, like a Mediterranean peasant – has become a luxury. Most people don’t have time to cook from scratch: Jamie’s 30-minute meals never factored in parking, queuing and arguing. Now that women are no longer housewives, the supermarket sweep is done at the speed of Concorde.

If someone in a fleece tried to stop me to peer, point and judge, I’d probably stab them. What if they spot the hair dye? Will they tell me it’s time to stop stemming the tide and go all Mary Beard? It is so very easy to judge. Peep inside my basket from Selfridges Food Hall a few years ago, and you’d have found kale, avocados, artisan bread and extra virgin rapeseed oil. I used to buy kumquats to float in every glass of organic flat rain water. I once bought a pineapple in Planet Organic for £9. I’d make my own low-sugar granola with coconut oil and agave nectar. Now that I’m on a tight budget, I never buy fruit: it’s too expensive!

And why are the free apples and bananas near the checkout supposed to be only for children? What about those of us with scurvy?

So save us from the supermarket snoopers. No one wants to make bad choices. No one wants to burst out of that bikini, no matter how many plus-size women appear on Good Morning Britain in their undies prior to running the London Marathon to prove they might be fat but they’re fit.

Other factors are at play: genetics, depression, loneliness. I concede a bit of expert advice when shopping when you’re anaemic, diabetic, have a fussy infant or can’t find the tofu is helpful. But most of us know right from wrong. We’re just at the point where we’re past caring.

 



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