What the hell is Kale anyway?

Posted on December 11, 2011

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My name is Claire, and I’m a healthy eater.

No, this isn’t the beginning of a Salad Scoffers Anonymous meeting, although confessing to opting for a wholesome diet can feel tantamount to declaring an addiction to S & M fetish. Something downright filthy that should be kept hush hush.

With a recent Cancer Research UK report stating that 40% of all cancers are caused by things we have the power to change – such as eating healthily – it’s achingly obvious that we’re a nation that needs to subvert its eating habits. So why does this country make it so difficult?!

The price of decent fruit and veg seems to be skyrocketing, most allegedly nutritious things on offer in the shops are often doused with additives, E numbers and God knows what else, and cheap sugary treats pirouette down the supermarket aisle shrieking ‘EAT ME!’ Fine, that last scenario doesn’t actually happen, but my point is that even with the best intentions, adopting a healthier diet isn’t as simple as it should be. Choosing a fruit and nut based snack over a giant bar of chocolate that’s sat next to the till at half price, on a cold, wintry afternoon, takes all the mental strength of a seasoned Buddhist monk. They don’t make it easy.

You just have to take a stroll through Iceland on a Saturday afternoon to see that most customers at the lower end of the pay scale aren’t paying any attention to the nutritional content of what’s on the shelves; it’s purely whatever’s on offer that ends up in their trolleys. So that’s microwave macaroni and cheese for the kids’ dinner, then. It’s depressing.

I’ve always been fairly health conscious and never one to live off sausage rolls and Berocca, but I’ve come to realise that if you want to transform your wellbeing through food, just abstaining from ketchup every now and then doesn’t cut it. It takes an extensive and sustained change to what you eat, it’s harder work to prepare and it costs more. So no wonder some people look at me as if my leg has just dropped off mid conversation when I explain these dietary choices.

It’s been a slow, almost unconscious process culminating in a lifestyle I’ve found hard to even admit to myself. I’m fairly certain that if the teenaged me, who would happily dunk her mars bar in a cuppa soup for a tasty snack, saw the twenty-something me living off lentils and pine nuts, she’d save us all a lot of bother and shoot herself in the face. Have I actually turned into one of those women you see grinning like a maniac while tucking into salad, or one of the ladies off the Danone adverts who skip gleefully down the street like leprechauns on Prozac at the mere whiff of a probiotic yoghurt?

Isn't salad amazing? Look how much fun eating salad is. Look!

Thankfully, no – as I discovered the other night when the temperature finally dropped about 0.5 degrees below my comfort food threshold, I chomped my way through an entire block of boirsin cheese plus three mince pies and spent the night twitching and drifting in and out of weird dreams about Captain Planet and my alternate life as a pet detective.

Phew. I’m normal after all. Because let’s face it, none of us Brits are capable of getting through the cold, grey and damp haze that is winter without eating our body mass in Dairy Milk, right? And turning down a takeaway pizza in favour of some lovely steamed vegetables on a chilly November evening can only lead to your friends trying to get you sectioned.

So nobody’s perfect and any intense healthy eating scheme may ultimately be subject to abject failure at some point. However, at the risk of agreeing with Jamie Oliver, our government’s effort to get the country eating properly is at best non-existent, and at worst totally abysmal. Big supermarket chains like Sainsbury’s and Asda have adopted a ‘traffic light’ colour scheme to show consumers at a glance the nutritional content of their purchase, but whether or not a red light would put someone off buying chocolate cake remains a mystery to me.

I realise no plate of greens is going to have me beaming manically like salad lady, but is it really so hard to break from the sugar grazing herd to try and adopt a slightly healthier diet?

So I implore you – chow down on fruit and veg every colour of the rainbow, get your recommended daily allowance of magnesium and eat your spinach with pride. You’ll be well on our way to looking and feeling a little bit like salad lady in no time, you’ll see.

I’m taking the boirsin blip as a bump in the road, and sticking with the new, shiny, lettuce chewing, healthy me. I like chick peas too. Deal with it.

PS If you don’t already know what Kale is, it’s not a recently discovered planet, but belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family (yes, you heard me) and is packed full of vitamins and minerals. Yum.

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