Fake food

I was doing my food shopping late last night when the kids were in bed. It was quiet in Tescos and I found myself pottering down the aisles and actually having time to think in peace  – unusual for me! I was surrounded by food but in reality how much of it was real? I mean real, natural food, rather than weird concoctions that have been glued together in a factory environment.

In general I eat relatively well and I’m pretty sure I hit a 7+ target of veg and fruit portions every day but I have to confess that I do buy things like readymade humus sometimes and my youngest son is always trying to sneak fruit yogurts into the trolley, not to mention the vegetarian sausages I buy because we don’t eat pork. As I stared down the seemingly endless aisle of yogurts groaning with labels shouting “FAT FREE CREAMY YOGURT” to “YOGURT WITH CHOCOLATE SPRINKLES” I suddenly felt this great desire for plain, natural, unadulterated food: yogurt that hasn’t had anything removed or removed. A lovely, pure white substance with a gentle, velvety flavour that marries so beautifully with fresh blueberries, sliced strawberries, and earthy blackberries. No need for anything else, is there?

So I picked up my favourite: full fat Total Greek Yogurt. I love it and let’s just remember a couple of things about fat: firstly we all need fat otherwise our bodies cannot absorb fat soluble vitamins and secondly, full fat yogurt is still not high fat. Remember that please before you aim for a pot of acidic, acrid-tasting “virtually fat free yogurt” that leaves you craving for clotted Cornish cream! The pregnant body needs good fats as does the postnatal body, even when aiming to lose the baby weight –think seeds, nuts, avocado and coconut oil.

I then rounded the corner and made my way up the readymade food aisle: row upon row of pre-prepared meals stacked in their plastic packaging and brightly coloured labels. But my mind started to wander towards the whole process that led up to these neat little packages: I mean imagine the great vats of slop bubbling like witches cauldrons, with lab-coat-clad alchemists adding monumental quantities of salt, sugar, preservatives, colourings and unpronounceable flavourings that no household would ever dream of stocking in their kitchen. I mean really: close your eyes and actually think about it.

I started to feel genuinely queasy and so I hurried, empty handed, down the aisle and into the relative safety of the “Ethnic Foods” section. Now doesn’t that name just get you? I mean what on earth does “ethnic food” mean? Different from “us”? And who is “us” anyway? One of the things I truly love the UK for is its diversity and what this has done for us on so many fronts: culturally but also our openness to food from around the world. I know I digress but I grew up in Italy where you eat fantastically well but forget the notion of try foods from other countries. They just don’t do it because – hey! – isn’t Italian food the best there is?! Well I adore Italian food but then again I love Thai, Indian, Chinese, French, Greek, Turkish and many more. Anyway, back on track: I was now in the “Ethnic Foods” aisle and here’s a tip for you: if you want to get your raw cashew nuts and almonds at a better price than elsewhere in the supermarket then this is the section to be in: Natco has BIG bags of raw nuts, as well as unsweetened desiccated coconut –useful for some of my recipes – and ground almonds – perfect for loads of my gluten-free cakes. Oh yes, they do rice flour too, and that’s fab for my gluten-free cakes too. And they even have packs of chia seeds these days – yay! So all in all, I like the “Ethnic Foods” aisle, apart from its patronising name!

Feeding the body in pregnancy and looking after the postnatal body


Next it was the meat aisle. What can I say about this? Well, a number of things. Firstly ladies, this: pregnant, postnatal or busy mums, we all need good quantities of protein and guess what? We all tend to be pretty rubbish are eating enough protein and yet it’s truly important to do so. Why? Because protein provides the building blocks for our bodies and allows us to heal and repair. Subsisting off salads simply won’t do the trick. So along with that colourful crunchy, summery salad, we need to have some yummy griddled chicken or meltingly soft roasted salmon…. Or creamy poached eggs. And don’t think that a handful of nuts will do the trick. Nuts are totally fab and I eat them every day but they won’t give you a complete protein. For that you need protein of animal origin (or you have to combine, for example, lentils and beans with rice). So don’t skip the meat aisle – head for the organic or  free range meats and stock up if you want to armour yourself against seasonal bugs and are genuinely serious about keep your body strong and healthy. And remember this: as mothers and mothers-to-be we have no choice other than to always be fit and healthy because that’s what motherhood is like: we have others who are reliant on us.  

So I grabbed some chicken, a few packs of raw tiger prawns and a load of salmon before heading into the bread aisle, stacked high with cotton wool-like buns and rolls, cardboard-like wraps and flatbreads, and plastic-like bagels. Ugh! Nope, I couldn’t bring myself to buy any of it. My mind was thinking “oh dear, it’s a busy week and wraps are so easy for the kids’ packed lunches” and then another voice in my head was saying “ yes but come on, the breadmaker isn’t exactly rocket science and at least you’ll know what is going into your bread”. So no bread went into my basket.

That was it: I headed off to the checkout with a trolley load of fruit, veg, greens, nuts, seeds, meat and fish along with…. some 85% cocoa solids chocolate! When it comes to chocolate I have acquired amnesia and the whole factory-based production process seems to have escaped my notice! It’s called being human…