Every time I do my Tesco shop (other supermarkets are available) I look out for the bright yellow stickers highlighting the latest deal and think about the pennies I can save this week.  The ‘Buy One Get One Free’ or ‘By Two Get the Third Free’ are everywhere and I wonder how we managed to feed ourselves before the mid 1990s when the supermarkets really started competing with each other.

My main issue as I walk down the fruit and veg aisle to get my 5-a day is why the bananas are never on offer? (unless I want the squidgy brown ones that no one in my family likes to eat!). I can buy the finest apples and pears, vine ripened gourmet tomatoes or a bag of Maris Pipers but rarely can I buy them without having to think about selling a kidney. And so moving down the aisles, I can buy bulk quantities of burgers, chips, sausages and fish fingers, 48 packets of crisps for the price of 24 or 36 cans of lager for the price of 24.  No wonder our sugar, fat and salt intakes are through the roof.

Regularly we hear the impending doom about the obesity crisis and now more worryingly, that predictions have underestimated the scale of the crisis (National Obesity Forum).  Recently the West Midlands were reported as the second fattest region in the country, where 65.7 per cent of people are overweight (Harry Mount’s Blog).

Weekly, we are bombarded with conflicting health messages about what we should or should not be eating, it’s no wonder we have no idea what we should be putting into our shopping trolleys.  All the while our risk of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and cancers remains ominously high because of what we are eating.  I appreciate Obesity is multifactorial and behaviour change won’t happen overnight but I do feel commercial food producers and supermarkets have a huge responsibility to encourage consumers to buy more healthily if we are to prevent our life expectancy from creeping in the wrong direction.

Interestingly last week, I read about a recent study where visual prompts and freebies were positioned in a Morrisons store at points of sale (Healthier Choices Pilot).  As a result, people actually bought more fruit and veg!  ‘Priming’ is such a simple idea, I think it sounds great but can we really bribe people into eating more healthily?  If we don’t understand why we should be eating less processed food and why we should be eating more fruit and veg, will this result in long term lifestyle changes? Will the BOGOF share size bags of M&Ms win in the end?  And if this idea ever takes off, will this not just give the supermarkets the excuse to continue to offer cheap processed food because they are doing their bit for the cause of public health anyway?

So I will continue to look for offers whilst shopping and buy what I think is good for me and my family but I look forward to having a choice of weekly deals that enables us to be healthier.  ‘Every little helps’ is not really a big help to me where I shop so perhaps I will try Morrisons instead!

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Mel Wakeman

I am a self confessed foody, a mum, a wife and a senior lecturer in nutrition. I want to know what exactly we are putting into our bodies when we eat and try to ensure our family eats a balanced diet. Don't get me wrong I am not a preacher of 'you must eat this and you can't eat that'. I am the first one to go grab that slice of cake and I believe you can't truly enjoy a cuppa without a good dunking biscuit. I just want to feel healthy so with the cynical voice on my shoulder and my science head on, I try to unpick all the latest news about what we should and should not be eating.

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