Kevan Christie: We need to get real about fruit and veg

The fact reported earlier this week that little progress has been made in improving the diet of Scottish people over the past 15 years '“ according to a study carried out by Robert Gordon, Abertay and Newcastle universities '“ is hardly surprising.

Persuading Scots to eat two fruit and veg portions a day might be more realistic (Photo : Walter Neilson)
Persuading Scots to eat two fruit and veg portions a day might be more realistic (Photo : Walter Neilson)

Asking people, no matter their social status, to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is a tall order and feels outdated.

Two years ago, Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs, said that a lot of people may struggle to afford the recommended amount of daily portions and that two-a-day was more realistic advice.

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Since then, the rise of supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi have certainly made fruit and veg more affordable, but the will to eat the ‘required’ amount does not appear to be there.

If we are to aim for two portions instead of the five then perhaps those portions would be of better quality.

The humble banana, for instance. should be a staple food in our diets, given it’s cancer-reducing powers and relative cheapness.

Countries like Uganda, where plant-based foods are the norm, have lower instances of bowel cancer and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested over $10 million for research in the country into “golden bananas” that are rich in vitamin A. Drinking fruit juice to make up your five-a-day is a bit of a waste of time given the amount of sugar in them.

The target-obsessed Scottish Government set new dietary goals back in March 2016, which ‘suggested’ we all eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, increase our fibre intake to 30g a day and eat more oily fish.

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This is unrealistic but one day they may set a target that someone achieves.

Politicians have made a lot of ‘white noise’ around the issue of the advertising and marketing of junk food in supermarkets, but nothing has been done and you’ll still be met with a chocolate-and-crisp mountain at the front of any big name store.

They need to get serious and clampdown on this shameless profiteering, treating it in the same way as minimum unit pricing for alcohol, which to date is the major feather in the SNP Government’s cap.

The downright grotty end of the food market should be priced out of the market in the same way that cheap white cider has been booted into touch.

I struggle to think of a Greggs parallel in any European country, but I’m sure if you look hard enough there’s a Spanish equivalent of a steak bake – although it’s probably saturated with olive oil.

Something definitely needs done, given that 65 per cent of adults in Scotland are overweight, with 29 per cent actually obese.

I don’t know if they still teach home economics in schools, but this is a good place to start. I remember getting taught how to make cheese on toast at one of these classes, which says everything you need to know about advice given to the generation of school kids who grew up in the 70s and 80s.

I’m sure there’s a lot you could do with a sweet potato and soup is a good way to covertly add healthy ingredients. A sprinkling of tumeric will virtually go unnoticed.

So, instead of laying down the law and acting on recommendations from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, it might be a good idea to start small with two-a-day and take things from there. Who knows, people in Scotland might eventually start to like this stuff.