Lunchtime at the hospital has been increasingly less appealing. First they closed the canteen so we no longer had a source of fresh wraps and a reason to bump into colleagues from other departments. Then the range of food we could get seemed to dwindle - in part due to a healthy eating policy that favoured beige sandwiches and chips as the only reliable options. All sugary drinks were hidden, and all crisps were baked. Naturally you could still get super calorific branded coffees and chocolate bars... We joked this did improve our health and fitness as anyone with time walked to the nearest Tesco and stocked up on the good crisps and drinks.
But - this week it all changed. I joked with the guy in the main corridor shop about the newly expanded range still just being sandwiches (flour is one of the most obesogenic foods humans have invented - mainly because we spread stuff on it). He smiled and pointed to the bottom shelf - which was filled with wonders and delights that would have had even Willy Wonka doing cartwheels.
We've always had little fruit salads that are a little overpriced - but that's how convenience food works - they sell the real stuff for much cheaper. We've never had seeds. We've never had vegetable based salad pots.
Anyone who works within range of a Marks & Spencer's is probably laughing about now - they can pay £4 for two pots that outclass this in everyway (mixed grains!!) and we pay £2.20 each for the above but it's such an amazing shift that I'm still giddy with excitement.
And yes - the fruit isn't that high on the Nutrient Density Index, but it's a start. They are slightly over-packaged too but if you wash and recycle that issue goes away. The spinach and egg combo was great and the seeds were not dry and most importantly not contaminated with some salty flavour dust.
The next day I went for a more 'bad' option from the same range - Southern Fried Chicken with a glass of contraband full fat Dr. Pepper.
These were chunkier and more filling than I'd expected - and the BBQ sauce was good too. This was 40p more and totally worth the upgrade. Not one for the weight loss crowd, but combined with one of the healthier pots (in my case the fruit salad again) I can imagine that this ticks enough boxes to be balanced.
My only worry about the range is that once I've progressed through everything that I'll either upgrade to having three pots (£6.60 a day adds up fast) or supplement with some of the wraps and sandwiches on offer (moderation is key). By Tesco Club-Card points may never increase again.
The new range is one that totally took cynical old me by surprise, and that the Trust should be commended for. Now we have choice again, the most important thing for any Public Health strategy to achieve meaningful long term behaviour change. I'll keep an eye on how this range develops as seasons change, and see how it sells by chatting to the catering staff.