Government¿s Change 4 Life food campaign blasted as ¿half-baked and dangerous¿

  • Healthy eating initiative backed by leading supermarkets and celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott
  • Concern raised over recommended dishes
  • Cauliflower cheese recipe uses packet sauce

Sadie Whitelocks

Last updated at 4:25 PM on 3rd January 2012

A £1.4 million government scheme to promote healthy eating on a budget has been slammed by nutritionists.

The Change 4 Life initiative, which is backed by leading supermarkets and spearheaded by celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott, urges the nation to rustle up a range of dishes from chilli con carne to cheese turnovers.

But, although they contain a low calorie content, experts are warning that many of the recipes use processed and unhealthy ingredients.

The government's Change 4 Life campaign to promote healthy eating, which is spearheaded by Ainsley Harriott, has been slammed by nutritionists

The government’s Change 4 Life campaign to promote healthy eating, which is spearheaded by Ainsley Harriott, has been slammed by nutritionists

One recipe in particular for cauliflower cheese, has raised concern as it advises people to use a packet sauce as a way of saving time.

A packet of cheese sauce from the Co-op – one of the
participating supermarkets – reportedly contains 13 ingredients including cheese powder made from additives regularly used in processed foods, to extend shelf life.

A serving of the sauce – which is meant to serve four people – has a high salt content and almost half the
government’s recommended daily allowance of saturated fat. 

Nutritionist Helen Money said it is positive that people are being encouraged to adopt healthier lifestyles, but she is ‘disappointed’ by many of the recipes featured
in the new campaign.

The Change 4 Life initiative urges the nation to cook up a range of dishes from chilli con carne to cauliflower cheese

The Change 4 Life initiative urges the nation to cook up a range of dishes from chilli con carne to cauliflower cheese

She told MailOnline: ‘I would not advise my clients to eat the sauce as described.

‘The campaign is trying to suggest quick easy meals for people to cook when they get home from work but there are much healthier meals that can be cooked quickly and easily.’

She added: ‘I also do not like the term supermeals and if using it at all, I would not classify meals such as this in it.’

Meanwhile nutritional therapist Charlotte Watts, told the Metro: ‘This is a highly processed, denaturalised version of a meal that most people already make fresh from the ingriedients in their fridge.

‘Putting a healthy label on it is not just half baked, it is dangerous.’

Asda, CoOp and Aldi stores across the UK are offering discounts on a number of basics such as fruit, vegetables and fish as part of the campaign.

Celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott has also helped devise a cookbook featuring a collection of healthy dishes that can be created for less than £5.

Despite backing from national supporters shadow public health minister Diane Abbott also agreed the campaign is flawed.

She said: ‘They’re calling this public health but it’s just a glorified advertisement for big business.’

However public health minister Anne Milton, unmoved by the criticism, said: ‘The new year is a good time to think about losing weight.

‘Some areas in inner cities are fresh food deserts so families fall into eating takeaway chicken and chips.’

A Department of Health spokesperson also defended the choice of ingredients adding: ‘The point of the campaign is to help families to make quick, healthy, inexpensive meals.

‘Making meals from scratch can take time and be a bit more expensive. Sometimes shortcuts can help.’

Here’s what other readers have said. Why not add your thoughts,
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The comments below have not been moderated.

Until the prices of lean meats and fish drop to the same level as the junk food, many people on a low income will continue to buy the junk food instead. A 6 pack of normal burgers ( on normal price for average quality) is around £2 a pack. You can’t buy enough average quality minced beef alone at that price – it’s time healthy options were subsidised so healthy eating becomes cheaper than processed.

If you want to lose weight just eat exactly the opposite the NHS tell you. Low fat food is full of sugar. There is not ONE study that has ever proved saturated fat can lead to heart disease, not one. They and the NHS dieticians are clueless. They know the facts but won’t admit they’ve got it wrong for the last 30 years. Imagine the headline in the DM…’Government scientists are now advising the public to decrease their intake of low fat food because it hasn’t been a success for 3 decades!’ will never happen.

Diane Abbott is health minister? she should not be, have you seen her two and a half acre ass, My Goodness.

I signed up to do a trial version of this programme in Scotland called Counterweight via a health check at my doctors. Despite being on it for 9 months, following the eating plan to the letter and taking up more exercise like regular gym, I lost virtually nothing. If I asked if the diet plan should be altered, the NHS nurse monitoring me said they would only be worried if I was putting weight on. There didn’t seem to be any real point to it as I wanted to lose weight not stick at the same point.

Avoiding salt-laden processed foods should be the central plank of any public health campaign advice. Change4Life suffers from conflicts of interest, and sadly, the financial profits of the Food Industry are more important to them than improving the health of members of the public. who are the customers of the food companies.

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