baby talk

    ‘Yummy veggies’? ‘Fun-size’ snacks? On healthy eating, let’s stop the baby talk

    5 January 2017

    January is an odd time for nutrition professionals. Having been ignored and uninvited for most of December we find ourselves more popular than ever now that the season has turned from tinsel and glitter to remorse and penitence. At a New Year’s lunch party I found myself singing for my supper as I fielded questions about weight loss, supplements and fads while fellow guests polished off the last of the Celebrations. It was refreshing to have an adult conversation about nutrition as I am increasingly frustrated by the dumbing down of the topic, made worse by the patronising, childish language and inane advice that I witness (starting with those ‘fun size’ chocolates — how are these ‘fun’?).

    Yesterday morning I went to the gym. This is not a rare occurrence as I attend three times a week or more and yet the receptionist greeted me with ‘well done for making it in today’. This sort of tone is generally used for congratulating an errant child on making a positive decision (‘well done for not hitting your brother’, that sort of thing), not a slightly curmudgeonly 53-year-old for choosing to exercise. I checked the Super Nanny website and saw that advice on calming your violent child includes reminding them to ‘use words’ instead and then praising them when they do.

    This childishness seems to be becoming quite normal and we can expect more of it in 2017. My fellow nutrition professionals aren’t helping at all – rather than using January and its spotlight to further their cause they ruin it by treating their audience as if they were naughty 10-year-olds.

    One well known health writer can’t stop calling vegetables ‘veggies’, a term mostly used in the US. I’m told it started in schools in an effort to get children to eat vegetables and that’s where the term clearly belongs. Others regularly pronounce their recipes posted online as being ‘yummy’ rather than trying anything more challenging.

    The current fetish for hiding vegetables or making them look like something else furthers the childish nature of today’s nutrition. This used to be the remit of nutritionists and chefs who worked with children, cleverly concealing vegetable in pasta sauce and the like. But now, instead of slicing vegetables so that they look like vegetables — surely not too shocking — we adults are encouraged to spiralise them so that they look like pasta. Or grated cauliflowers to look like rice or couscous, so that we don’t have to acknowledge that we are eating cauliflower. Does this fool anyone over the age of seven?

    Earlier this week, dentists at the Royal College of Surgeons claimed that the ‘office cake culture’ was contributing to obesity and poor oral health (the cake culture is bringing cakes to the office to celebrate birthdays or the like). Surely this is to be expected in a country where the noble art of baking cakes has become fetishised and the most popular television programme involves 14 million of us sitting on our fleshy bums watching people making cakes that are by nature significant sources of simple carbohydrates, refined sugar and fat?

    The Guardian website suggested, tongue in cheek, that you avoid having to eat the cake by faking an intolerance, which seems a little dramatic. I have an idea – use words and say no. You might even take a stab at true adulthood and add ‘thank you’ to that.