Recently, the BBC Panorama programme covered a controversial subject; the idea of taxing junk food. The idea is that by taxing high calorie, low nutritional content foods such as crisps, chocolate, ice-cream, etc; consumers would protect their pockets and simply rein in their spending on expensive junk foods with the beneficial effect of improving the nation’s diet.
The system has been successful with curbing smoking so supporters argue that by applying the same principles to junk food, consumption will fall. Their argument is borne out by results in Denmark, where junk food is very heavily taxed and early indications are that obesity levels are falling for the very first time in 60 years.
Detractors of the system rail against what they perceive as the ‘Nanny State’ but statistics tell a powerful story. The UK is officially the fattest nation in Europe with one third of children and nearly two thirds of adults classified as obese and current estimates are that by 2050, obesity health problems will escalate by an additional 20% for heart disease, 70% for type 2 diabetes and the total cost to the NHS is estimated to be a staggering £32 billion per year!
So clearly something has to be done, the question is whether strong Government intervention is the solution. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley will soon be publishing a Government White Paper on Public Health, including obesity but early indications from him are that his policy is not to tell people what to do.
He was quoted as saying, “Nudges are very important, tax is not a nudge, tax is a shove. The public don't think it's our job to be trying to tell people what to do.” So early indications are that the Government is unwilling to attempt to force people to focus on their health through targeted taxation.
So where do you sit? Would you support a fat tax in the same vein as a nicotine tax? We all support the idea of wearing seatbelts because of the increase in our personal safety, so much so that it’s long been forgotten that there’s a minimum £60 penalty if you drive without one.
My view is that year-on-year we’re seeing an increase in the burden on our already buckling NHS so why not have a compromise system. Instead of solely increasing taxes on junk food (which the cynics would say is just a ploy to add to the Treasury coffers), simultaneously plough all junk food taxation revenues back into the economy by subsidising healthy foods.
That way, no-one can complain that the taxation is ‘non-health’ focused and everyone can equally benefit via a reduced shopping bill. Now that’s what I call a win-win! However, in the short-term, it’s unlikely that any taxation changes or otherwise will happen so in the meantime, I’m offering my own range of junk food solutions.
This week I’m looking at food and calorie swaps that you can put into practice for your own nutrition.
1. Say NO! to Supersize! ‘Will that be large Sir?’ Now there’s a common phrase that food and drink vendors frequently invoke in an endeavour to get you to trade up to a more expensive purchase. Of course the question that you should be asking yourself is ‘do I really need large?’ At 2,500 and 2,000 calories daily required for the average man and woman respectively, too much trading up contributes to the problem. So say NO! to Supersize!
2. Tomato sauce is good! Pasta has become a staple of the British diet these days and it can provide a really healthy meal. However, a bowl of penne drenched in a Carbonara sauce is a calorie-fest that could be drastically slashed if a tomato based sauce was chosen instead. So choose tomato sauce over the high fat options and help your waistline!
3. Watch those coffees. ‘That’ll be a large double mocha latte for me please.’ (OK, you can tell I don’t drink coffee shop coffees but you know what I’m trying to say!). So beware the mega calorie hit in your morning caffeine fix.. Some coffees tip the calorie scales at more than 400 calories per cup and hot chocolates edge can close to 600 calories so a couple of those per day and you’re already half-way through your calorie quota and you’ve not touched any solid food! So consider non-cream versions or my favourite, plain water! No calories, fantastically thirst quenching and free (£ and calories!).
4. Spread? What spread? You know, I never put butter or spread on my sandwiches, I simply liven them up with some salad, pickle or something similar which keeps them fresh tasting, non-fatty to eat and if you’re looking for calorie swaps, an easy win!
5. Beware – snackattack! You know the feeling. You’ve missed a meal or its mid afternoon and you’re hungry. It’s too long to wait until your next meal so the temptation monster looms large and snackattack takes over. You crave that high calorie instant energy hit such as chocolate or crisps and doesn’t it feel great when your teeth sink into that bar. However that bar doesn’t last long and in about half an hour, lo and behold, snackattack rears its head again. That’s because you’ve chosen the calorie dense option that gives you what you desire in the short-term but leaves you very short-changed in the long-term. That energy hit rapidly subsides and before you know it you’re back to square one and ravenous again. Sound familiar? Well your solution is the healthy snackattack! Rice cakes, a couple of crackers and low fat cheese, a piece of fruit, a small handful of nuts and dried fruit – all much better for you and your waistline than the vending machine option!
6. . . . and finally, Now whilst the debate on the merits of a fat tax will rage on, in the short-term, you can see that there are umpteen easy and pain-free calorie swaps that you can invoke that will have a positive benefit on your health and your figure! So effectively you can introduce your own fat tax – how simple is that! Enjoy your healthy eating from all the body4life health & fitness Team – that’s me, Jane, Duncan, Dave, Alison and Tony (I think we’d be extremely well off if a fat tax was introduced!).
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