I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth, I can take or leave a bag of crisps, but I can’t resist a fizzy drink.
While a crisp glass of wine, or a chocolate bar chaser might be other people’s preferred midday treat I’m a sucker for an ice cold can of diet something.
But the chill is being taken off my daily vice as food is back in the news – with warnings about the contents of the ultra processed variety.
Prompted by a flurry of recently released books and a BBC Panorama documentary about just how much of what we eat has added colourings, sweeteners or preservatives to enhance its look, feel and shelf life – there are warnings about the impact of this on our health.
Prof Tim Spector, professor of epidemiology at King's College, says ultra processed foods now point to being far more dangerous than we first thought, linked to everything from heart disease to diabetes and dementia, strokes and of course cancer.
First Steps Nutrition Trust says ultra processed foods account for around 60% of the mean energy intake of youngsters aged two to five in the UK – a figure now higher than the United States. While nearly a third of all baby and toddler foods sold in the UK are ‘ultra processed’ – putting children’s long term health and development at risk.
But while I (of course ignoring everything else I eat!) have the privilege to ponder whether my one can a day, won’t so much as keep the doctor away but have me knocking on his door, we of course come back full circle to the sky-high price of food in the UK and most importantly the fresh variety.
When a basic cheese and tomato supermarket own-brand pizza is a third of the cost of a punnet of fruit or half the cost of a pack of apples, is it any wonder our reliance on UPF as a nation is sky high? For a family trying to feed their brood, that particular pizza or the 30p garlic baguette it shares a shelf with, will stretch much further than six or seven British strawberries.
When everything from breakfast cereal to novelty yogurts is marketed at families with cartoon characters or collectable cards it’s no surprise kids are turning their noses up at the humble plain porridge oat.
While the cost to produce fresh food on our own shores is fast becoming prohibitive for growers, leaving us at the mercy of our European neighbours, the tinned and packet stuff it is.
Dr Chris Van Tulleken, the author behind Ultra Processed People, says those who are poorer eat far more processed food than those who can be more flexible with food budgets.That’s no surprise.
Swerving UPFs demands time and money – neither of which cash-strapped households have a lot of before someone here suggests a can of chopped tomatoes and an onion is a cheaper and healthier alternative when wishing to whip up a basic pasta dish to compete with the 80p sauce jar.
A soup or stew may be overflowing with cheaper, healthier root vegetables but if you’ve not got the gas in the meter to fire up the hob or oven – the microwave meal it is.
And as someone with a child who attends a Kent school which doesn’t teach cookery – should we also question the level of food education readily available and more importantly how geared it is towards real-life (budgets, basic recipes, how to feed a family of four for next to nothing) or whether it’s all far more aspirational in its teaching?
Most of us know how to be healthier.
But without industry-wide change, a government ready to get a handle on our post-Brexit food economy, perhaps combined with a cultural shift in how much importance we place on food - and good quality food at that – we’re likely to remain swimming against a tide awash with additives we can’t pronounce.
I’ll be pondering that today over a glass of water.