Can Change4life supermarket vouchers really change lives?

by | Jan 3, 2012

2012 saw the launch of a nation-wide government campaign to help us buy and cook healthier meals on a budget. Yesterday I was quizzed about my views on this, live on the Vanessa show Radio London, as part of my work with the British Dietetic Association.


What’s it all about? Well, the Department of Health’s Change4Life initiative has begun a New Year’s Supermeals campaign. Families will be offered discount vouchers to encourage them to buy healthy ingredients, like fruit, veg and low fat yoghurts. And TV chef Ainsley Harriott has created a cookbook of recipes so you can make family meals under a fiver.

Will this help those families who rely on take-aways to eat better? Or will it just be preaching to the converted? Well, my view is that if you were offered a discount on a food you may not normally buy, you might be tempted to give it a try. Even more so if you have kids or if you want to eat a bit better. So I am in favour of this move. The supermarkets in question are those who are thought to serve families who are looking to save money on food (Aldi, Coop and Asda). People on lower incomes are often less able to buy healthier food items, unless fruit and veg are on offer. They are also more likely to have lower intakes of certain nutrients.

A take-away meal of fried chicken and chips may be cheaper and far easier than going to the supermarket and cooking a meal from scratch. However, giving people the opportunity to try out fresh fruit and veg they wouldn’t normally buy and then giving them simple recipes (at least I hope they’re simple, haven’t got my copy of the book yet!) is a great way of encouraging healthier habits. It may help families sit and eat together at a table, which has been shown to help reduce risks of childhood obesity as it stops that mindless eating in front of a computer game or TV.

Note, it’s only a kick-start, and it won’t necessarily be attractive to the people who really need the help and advice. So it is certainly a step in the right direction, and a great way to start a new year. Congratulations to Change4life  – I hope they have other tricks up their sleeve that will build on this initiative so we get some sustainability.

More on eating well spending less.


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