Scottish Daily Mail
No, we don’t need an ‘eat your greens’ nanny in the supermarket biscuit aisle
THERE was a time when my ears were open to lectures about the stuff going into my stomach, and that time was childhood. This was the period, you may recall from your own experience, when there was a lot of information coming in and absorbing the important bits was seldom a matter of choice, for they were repeated ad nauseam.
‘Finish your fish, it’s good for your brain’ I heard a million times. Ditto ‘Eat your carrots and you’ll be able to see in the dark’.
If I had a pound for every time I was told drinking my milk would make my bones nice and strong and having those sweeties would rot my teeth, I’d be able to afford private dental care.
We children used to watch cartoons about a sailor man with a speech impediment who had us almost persuaded that gorging on spinach might assist with the development of our puny biceps.
At school, we were detained for weeks on projects designed to equip us for the nutritional choices which lay ahead in adult life.
Even back in the late 1970s, you see, science was conversant with terms such as calories and carbohydrates and few of us 11-year-olds left primary school without some awareness of them either.
I share these last-century memories to make the point that balanced diets and some rudimentary learning on what’s good for us and what isn’t are not exactly new-fangled phenomena. These concepts have been around a while.
What is new – and endlessly irritating – is the increasingly shrill hectoring by those who seem to imagine people eat the wrong things in modern times because they simply don’t know any better.
It is as superfluous as telling David Cameron that smoking those cigarettes at pop concerts isn’t terribly good for you, actually – or reminding Ant McPartlin that drinking in the daytime is not always a great idea.
The latest brainwave for enlightening the already enlightened comes from Waitrose, which is appointing 100 healthy eating specialists to man the aisles and dole out dietary advice to customers.
Attired in aprons and fleeces, they will stand around getting in shoppers’ way as they wait to be invited to inspect the contents of shopping baskets. Alighting on your Indian butter chicken ready meal, for example, they are liable to point out this product is high in saturates (See the red label in front of your nose that says ‘saturates: high’? Yes, this is actually how we nutritionists can tell that the saturate content of the product is quite significant) and direct you instead to the chicken jalfrezi which, intriguingly, has a green label next to ‘saturates’ and the word ‘low’.
To help those who have recently become vegetarians, the nutrition nannies will not only assist in herding any confused ones away from the rib roasts but also impart wisdom on the plant-based foods which replace the nutrients found in meat.
And, if they still feel they have not been patronised quite enough yet, customers in some branches can pay £95 for a personal nutrition consultation with a nanny.
Let me try to save them some cash: they’ll tell you to eat your greens. A Waitrose spokesman says: ‘Our healthy eating specialists will advise and direct customers who ask towards healthier choices on the shop floor, both on a dayto-day basis and through organised shop tours.’
More likely, as these foodie finger-waggers are rolled out across the country, occupying valuable space in already crowded food halls, they will get right up shoppers’ noses.
Supermarkets, see, are not car showrooms or gadget emporia. We do not require rundowns on the spec of the eggs or the orange juice or the peanut butter and if we decide we do, we can read the label or – here’s a thought – attempt to scare up some insight at customer services. Waitrose shoppers may have their pretensions but, if they have any kind of life to speak of, they neither expect nor desire assistance in whipping round the aisles replenishing product they have bought many times before.
What they desire is far ahead use-by dates, products to be in the same place they were last week, price labels on shelf rims to bear some passing resemblance to the sums sought for the items sitting on them and, unless directed otherwise, store staff, whether nutritionally literate or not, to stay the hell out of their way.
I know it may seem to millennials in brainstorming pods that the answer to every societal ill is an awarenessraising campaign and that, if symptoms persist, ever more hysterical doses of awareness are the only cure, but let us keep the march of the busybodies out on the street.
We are grown-ups. We’ve got the leaflets and heard the lectures, thank you so much.
Some of us duck into supermarkets to get away from them.