Can we afford to eat healthily?

tape_measure_around_plate_1600_wht_15585No, according to Eleanor Mills in the Sunday Times yesterday.

She starts her column by pointing out that for the first time in history poor people are fatter than rich people.

At one time of course being generously proportioned meant you could afford to eat well. The we had the idea that pale and thin was good – “you can’t be too rich or too thin” – well yes you can actually and why I support the “No More Skinny” campaign.

But that’s a different story. She says expensive clothes tend to come in smaller sizes than supermarket own-brands, the average British woman is a size 16 (that’s 40-32-42 in inches) and the only part of retail doing well is Plus Size.

If you haven’t got much money it goes further in a fast-food outlet according to research at Cambridge University. They found that eating healthily costs three times as much as eating junk food.

Over the past decade healthy food had increased in price by over twice as much as junk food based on a study of almost 100 food items, taken from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) consumer price index basket, including salmon, yoghurt and tomatoes at the healthy end of the spectrum to pizzas beef burghers and dough its at the other end.

The author of the study said “The increase in price difference is a factor in increasing health inequalities and a deterioration in the health of the population”. An that’s no joke given the cost to the NHS of obesity and diet-related ill-health like type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

The experts seem to think that we can do nothing about it and teaching people to be able to cook well on a low budget won’t help. For example Dr Joun Middleton at e the UK of Public Health charity puts the blame for the poor being obese purely on high prices. I think sometimes charities take a simple point of view to make it easier to get there point across and raise money. How can teaching people to cook not help?

Mills doesn’t agree either pointing out that in many cultures people eat well on low incomes citing Indian cuisine as a good example or making home made soup from beans and pulses. But she acknowledges that having the time to do it is a factor, putting a pizza in the oven for ten minutes when you’re in a hurry to get to work is easier than cooking from scratch. But you can use a slow cooker overnight and it only takes 20 minutes to cook fish and boil potatoes.

  • A 2014 Nuffield Health study found that 1/3 of people in the UK said they could;t afford to eat a healthy diet and 1/7 said they didn’t have time to prepare balanced meals.
  • DEFRA found that the pest 10% of households by income bought the least fruit and vegetables – almost 3 portions a day down 14% since 2007.
  • In 2013 price was rated as the most important factor influencing food choices but if you haven’t got a car getting to a cheap supermarket with kids in tow can be a problem.

Cooking is apparently back on the school curriculum. This has got to be a good thing. When I was at school, a long time ago I admit, boys did joinery or woodwork at boys’ schools and girls did cookery or domestic science. Both were useful skill sets that more recent generations seem to lack.