New year, new you… we’re all pretty much done with this now, right?
I mean we’re halfway through January and the gym is once again half-empty (or so I’m told by those who are still sticking to their new year’s resolutions! Hah!)
I have to admit, however, that last week I found myself very much looking forward to attending my very own ‘healthy eating tour’ with Waitrose healthy eating specialist Ros Lee.
I met Ros at the supermarket’s Alderley Edge branch a few weeks ago, and we discussed what was entailed in the new initiative being offered by Waitrose in some of its branches.
Ros kindly invited me to take part in a tour to find out for myself what was involved.
The tours are offered – completely free of charge – to customers in a select number of stores. Locally, that includes Alderley Edge as well as nearby Altrincham and Buxton.
Trained specialists are on hand in these stores to answer your healthy eating questions, and to help point you in the right direction.
Those of us who shop in Waitrose frequently will know that their employees (called partners) are particularly helpful and knowledgable in comparison to those of rival chains – but these new healthy eating specialists take product knowledge and customer advice to a whole other level.
Their training has been certified by the Association for Nutrition, a quality assurance mark on the standard of training which goes into establishing a healthy eating specialist for a Waitrose store.
It considers that their qualification is both reputable and evidence-based, with nutrition science backing up what is taught to the budding new healthy eating specialists.
Waitrose is thought to be the first supermarket in the UK to invest in such training for its staff – and by dissemination, for its customers too.
Now, perhaps it’s because January is widely regarded as a month for renewed self-discipline, but along with my excitement I was also feeling a little concerned that I was about to subject myself to an hour of “stay away from that” or “this is not good for you!”
I’m pleased to report that this couldn’t be further from the truth and any trepidation was soon diminished as Ros began a pre-tour discussion to find out more about my current food choices and to ask me what I already thought about with regard to healthy eating.
Ros started by telling me that the tour was all about helping me make more informed choices – and that my decisions are ultimately down to me. Everything in moderation, you might say.
She promised that she wasn’t there to lecture me, and with that we proceeded with our tour of the store!
One of the first things we tackled was how to deal with those pesky nutrition labels on packaging.
As we know, they’re not all the same; some use a traffic light system, some use percentages, others refer to calorie content. It’s little wonder that we don’t make proper use of them when they’re all so varied and we struggle to compare like with like.
Thankfully, Ros provided a few quick tips on how to compare food labels like a pro (look for the common denominator – not as easy as you might think, but once you do that, your comparison becomes clearer!)
We talked about ways of swapping foods with high sugar or saturated fat content with others that still give great flavour but also provide more of the nutrients we need in our diets.
Going hand-in-hand with my new food-comparison super powers, this means I should be able to find something healthy but bland and mix it up to create something tasty and good for me!
I was also interested to find out more about the ‘good health’ logo which is on a number of Waitrose products.
This isn’t a product range in its own right per se, it’s actually found across a number of Waitrose’s own-label ranges (from ‘Essentials’ to ‘Duchy Organic’ and everything in between.)
Products have been given the logo to help customers identify, at a glance, which products are going to be good for them – handy for when your healthy eating specialist isn’t nearby to ask!
As we walked up and down the aisles, finding examples of each of the different topics being discussed on the tour, I saw just how much preparation had gone into making all this come about.
The healthy eating specialists have been given in-depth training and they’re genuinely keen to educate others. It isn’t about lecturing me on what I should and shouldn’t be eating (after all, Waitrose sells the very products that we should consider a ‘treat’ or occasional purchase!)
Nor is it about up-selling, or trying to switch us to more expensive choices – indeed, some of the healthier options we uncovered during the tour were from the cheaper ranges in the store.
I can’t say that I think offering a healthy eating specialist like Ros is some kind of panacea, a silver bullet if you will, that if rolled out to all supermarkets across the land will cure the country of all its obesity problems. It isn’t as simple as that.
I can tell you, though, that Ros’ words stuck with me – and that I have thought more carefully about my shopping basket on each of the two or three occasions when I’ve gone out for a food shop since the tour.
Whether that will last, I don’t know. (It is January after all. By now the gym is probably three quarters empty…!)
I do hope it will though, and as I get better at distinguishing ‘good’ products from ‘bad’ ones I’ll be able to improve my own cooking and enjoyment by creating new recipes.
Aside from my own personal development, I think the concept is thoroughly brilliant!
I think supermarkets should be doing much more to help us get better acquainted with the food we’re consuming and the impact it’s having on us. Kudos to Waitrose for taking such a bold stride here.
I also want to take a moment to say how good Ros was. I’m sure all of the healthy eating specialists are fantastic, but Ros really did impress me.
I consistently bombarded her with a barrage of questions. She wasn’t fazed, she answered them all and even came back to me afterwards with some extra detail on the company’s product-sourcing policies that I’d asked about.
Now for the good bit – how can you get on one of these tours…?
Specialists will be running regular healthy eating tours, with details posted in each branch (keep an eye out next time you’re in store).
For a timetable, and to book, simply visit the store’s welcome desk.
Topics covered include:
– Current UK recommendations for healthy eating
– Food labelling explained
– How to make healthy swaps
There’s more information on the Waitrose website.