Fads, fights and making the switch…

Fads, fights and making the switch

Do you fight over food in your home? I don’t mean literally flinging food at one another or clambering over each other to get the last bit of avocado in the salad. Instead, I’m interested in whether you all have the same beliefs about food. Do you have a Jack Spratt in the family? A vegetarian? A low-fat devotee? Someone who couldn’t care less whether they stuffed themselves stupid with processed foods?

I can claim to have two of these in my household and the arguments about what we should be eating can be very tiring. Here’s how it goes:

  • My son will not touch any fat and for some reason believes anything vaguely charred is carcinogenic. Yet he will only drink full fat milk.
  • My daughter is certain that anything processed should be avoided. She also thinks everyone should eat a tin of red salmon each day. Not overly practical, and a bit of a contradiction perhaps…
  • My husband avoids potatoes and pasta like the plague. I can’t make him understand it’s what you put on or with the potatoes that can make them unhealthy. The poor humble spud gets such a bad rap.
  • I think some animal fat is good for you, so I am definitely in the Mrs Spratt category. I believe that low-fat foods are crammed with sugar to make them taste palatable and should be avoided.
  • My mother believes that all you need in your pantry is an avocado and a can of baked beans ~ complete foods to her mind!

The one thing we all agree on is that we’d like to cut down on processed food and do our level best to eliminate added sugars.

I’d suggest that most of our views as to what constitutes ‘healthy’ are formed during childhood and that whilst most will remain with us for life, they shift as we age and particularly as nutritionists, celebrity chefs, the media and the medical profession provide a never-ending and ever-changing list of what is good and what is bad.

It can be confusing at best, misleading at worst. And don’t get me started on diets…

For example, my father swore off eggs for years because his GP believed they were the root cause of Dad’s high cholesterol. Such was the mania surrounding eggs and cholesterol at the time; the egg-industry suffered a huge downturn in sales. Now, it’s changed and some eggs in moderation are considered ‘goodies’, packed with protein and a great addition to our diet (allergies notwithstanding).

Most of us have probably heard something similar; with claims such as red wine is good for you, dark chocolate can lower blood pressure, low-fat foods are essential and paleo is the only way, popping up regularly. All these claims and counter-claims are bound to lead to some very confused purchasing habits.

Now, I’m no saint and I admit to easily being mislead by claims of ‘light’, ‘natural’, ‘zero sugar’ etc., which is why I was thrilled when Bupa put me in touch with one of their initiatives: FoodSwitch. It’s a truly brilliant app and what’s more it’s free.

Developed by Bupa and The George Institute for Global Health, it can help you find out what is in the packaged food you’re contemplating buying, and better still, suggest simple, healthier switches for you and your family.

All you have to do is scan the barcode on your chosen food, set to whichever filter you want (of those ingredients you wish to avoid or eat less of) such as salt, energy, fat, sugar or gluten and then away you go. My children are totally addicted to it, rushing about the supermarket zapping bar codes left right and center. I’m beginning to think of it as a nutritional version of Pokemon Go.

Once you’ve scanned the product you can see at a glance how healthy the food item is. If it’s not for you, you simply choose another product. Simples peoples!

It’s really clever because by using a finely-tuned set of algorithms, it automatically takes into account a range of different factors important to general health including saturated fat, sugars, salt, energy, protein, dietary fiber and for some products, calcium.

So if you’ve been considering making a switch of the foods you buy or are looking to reduce a particular thing in your diet, I’d definitely recommend it. I’m yet to see anything like it, and best of all, by default, it’s helping me educate my kids on healthier food choices that will hopefully stay with them for life.

To find out more about FoodSwitch and how it’s helping Australian families, visit here.

What’s the strangest food fad that sucked you in completely? Mine was that “light” meant light in calories. Ah, no. It just means light in colour. Fess up. What was yours?

Until next time…

Brought to you in partnership with Bupa Australia


  1. says

    Hello there, I have the app and it’s very handy, really good. I noticed it was mentioned in an article in the Fin Review recently too on best health apps.

    We have a few oddities, a very vegetarian, no chicken, no fish husband who is also pretty fussy…. huge teens who love meat, one fussy twin though he’s getting much better with his veggies.

    I try to buy the better kind of prepared meals, from companies like Dinner Ladies and my fave Dinner On The Table… however there’s a supermarket frozen meal and a pizza nestling in the freezer right now. But homemade is best and wholefoods too… one the days I get the whole family to eat a vegetarian meal, I feel as if I’ve won Masterchef.

  2. Bronwyn says

    So good to hear it’s not just our family! Our last big argument was when my husband ordered a Coke Zero. Sons, 8 and 12, wanted to know what they was (how cute – that age and they can’t recognise soft drink names! We’ve done well). We explained Coke zero has no “sugar”. I went on to explain about the study that showed people who drank soft drinks with artificial sugars actually put on more weight in the long term than those who consumed soft drinks with “real” sugar. Husband disputed that on grounds that studies can be “made to say anything”! (Because he wants to keep drinking coke Zero and not feel that it’s bad for him.)

    It is hard going against ingrained beliefs. And even harder to separate marketing from science. I’m old enough to have been through the promotion of margarine over butter, of the consumption of fresh milk for bone density (um, no!) the eggs and cholestoral scare, the advent of low fat milk (why bother?)…. turns out usually that just eating fresh, whole food is the best, and the more packaged stuff you buy, the worse your health. But fresh whole food comes at a time cost, so it’s good to know there’s a tool out there to sort out the packaged food that will suit you best.

  3. says

    This post is funny indeed – I love the part about avoiding processed foods but eating tinned salmon ha ha! Thanks for the info about the Food Switch app (and it’s funny you think of it as a nutritional version of Pokemon Go). I think it will save me time from having to inspect ingredients of each item I buy when I’m at the supermarket :)

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