The government is urging us to ‘refresh our menu with some healthier low-cost meals’ – but with packet sauces and extremely low calorie counts, just how healthy are the ‘supermeals’ they’re touting?
It’s that time of year when many of us are trying to lose those few extra pounds that might have been gained during the ‘Christmas indulgence’ period.
And right on cue, this week the government launched its new Change4Life Supermeals campaign backed by leading supermarkets and celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott.
However the ‘supermeals’ recommended in the campaign have come into some (in my opinion, fair) criticism.
How super are ‘supermeals’?
First of all I have a problem with this new invented term ‘supermeal’ – it implies the meal is far healthier and better than other meals. It’s the same as ‘superfood’, which doesn’t mean anything and was invented by marketing people.
More surprising is the use of the term ‘supermeal’ when you look at some of the recipes such as ‘quick and easy pollock and leek grills’ and cauliflower cheese, which both use a packet cheese sauce. While I understand that people use packet sauces, they tend to be high in salt, full of additives and are not what I would call healthy.
A cheese sauce is not very difficult to make and doesn’t take more than 15 minutes. I appreciate that this meal planner might be aimed at those who don’t cook and so is trying to be as easy as possible, but it is wrong to imply the meals are healthy – and even more wrong to imply they are ‘super’.
Low-cal isn’t always best
Healthy does not only mean low calorie – it is about the levels of salt, sugar and fat and also other nutrients present in the food. While a homemade cheese sauce might contain more fat it would almost certainly also contain more calcium, an important nutrient – and to make it lower in fat it could be made using low-fat milk and reduced fat cheese.
My other concern is how low in calories some of the recipes are. The super veggie soup, for example, only contains 127 calories per portion – this is nowhere near enough for a whole meal, so you would need to have something with it.
A man should aim for around 2,500 calories and day and a woman 2,000 calories. With this in mind a main meal should contain around 500-700 calories. This soup wouldn’t sustain you for long and would probably have you reaching for an after-dinner snack not long after.
Instead of resorting to fad diets you might think that following a programme devised by the government would offer a more balanced, healthier alternative. While some of the recipes are fine, I’d look a little more closely before choosing which ones to go for.