Change 4 Life takes a battering from nutritionists

You would have thought that the Department for Health’s huge public health campaign Change 4 Life would have brought a smile to the faces of UK nutritionists. The campaign aims to prevent people from becoming overweight by encouraging them to eat better and move more. Change 4 Life uses not only the Government, but also businesses, healthcare professionals, charities, schools, families or individuals, allowing everyone to play their part, and they have already gained support from over 100 “national partners”. These partners/businesses assist with promoting the message, sponsoring sports activities and providing discounts on sports equipment and healthy food options. Surely this has to be a large step in the right direction?

The Change 4 Life marketing campaign is impressive, using TV, newspaper and poster advertising, sponsorship of Channel 4’s The Simpsons, along with other marketing methods. Admittedly this has come at a cost, but how else do you grab the public’s attention?

So why have nutritionists got their knickers in a twist? The bone of contention is based around the recipes found on the “Supermeal Recipe Finder” on the Change 4 Life website. The website itself is bright, cheerful and interactive providing browsers with tips and ideas about how to implement changes to improve dietary intake and increase exercise levels. These recipes are also available in Ainsley Harriot’s cookbook (retailing at £5) with a month’s worth of healthy recipes.

The Supermeal Recipe Finder assists with planning a week’s meals as well as searching for specific recipes, encouraging people to plan ahead with quick, easy and cheap meals. Unfortunately, concerns have been raised about the quality of the meals:

  • Some supermeals are not nutritionally balanced eg cauliflower cheese and vegetables with cheese and spring onion sauce – which includes very little carbohydrate and protein.
  • Packet foods are included in the recipe, which moves away from cooking from scratch and may be high in salt.

As a practicing Dietitian I can appreciate why these concerns have been raised. However, the nutrition team behind these recipes have attempted to keep them simple and cost effective and packet sauces help to do this. In the grand scheme of this campaign, these are minor issues that should not detract from the many other recipes and positive messages that they are managing to communicate. With the British Dietetic Association as one of the campaign’s National Partners, they have full access to further professional opinion. I hope that in future Nutritionists and Dietitians could work with Change 4 Life by making helpful suggestions and ideas about how to further improve the campaign and not just find fault in it, as surely we are all working towards a common goal.

Posted in Healthy Living, Nutrition and tagged , , , .

Louisa Fearnley

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