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Comment: Trying to acquire a taste for a healthier 2014
This is the time of year when rational, normal people start behaving like would-be monks. Out goes the booze, the coffee, the sweets and the place on the sofa. In comes a few trips to the gym, mineral water and the latest diet craze.
At the moment, these all seem to involve a curious combination of binge starving and binge eating.
One day, you have to get by on a small bowl of celery; the next day you’re allowed to get back to eating pretty much whatever you want. I’m assured it works wonderfully and it’s the key to a happy life, but I’m reserving judgment until these 5-2 diet zealots have had a bit of time to live with their decision.
My view on diets has always been clouded by suspicion. Rather a lot of people do seem to adopt some regime, sing about it from the treetops, only to then revert back to eating lard and chips a month later.
If you can make it stick, and if the diet makes you fit and happy, then I salute you.
Me, I’d rather just work off the excess calories. Run up and down the stairs, for instance, walk to the shops, take a stroll with the dog.
And try – try – to eat food that isn’t stuffed to the gunnels with sugar and e-numbers.
A report out over the past week made for chastening reading, highlighting that just about everything that tastes nice only does so because it’s had several teaspoons of sugar poured into it.
Yoghurt? Yup, sugary. Bread has got sugar in it and everything marked low-fat seems inevitably to be consequently high in sugar.
Fruit juice, which your children will protest is okay, because it’s made of, well, fruit is actually the liquid equivalent of tooth-acid.
Into the midst of all this came a Christmas present to me from my mother-in-law. Now, my mother-in-law is about as far removed from the Les Dawson cliché as it's possible to be.
She’s warm and funny, a lot more stylish than me and fond of a little adventure. Every year, she travels across to Los Angeles for a Thanksgiving holiday and comes home with a few slices of Californian inspiration.
And so came the Nutribullet into my life, an American invention that looks unassuming but might just change my life.
It’s basically a small blender into which you push a container filled up with bits of fruit and vegetable, as well as some water. You push it down, wait a few seconds, and then your work is done.
The container comes off, you unscrew the rotor blade, screw a handle on its place and – bosh – you have a big old blended juice drink.
So what’s the big deal? Well, first up – this stuff is healthy. A typical recipe for this drinks machine involves spinach, pear, banana and seeds. There’s no badness in there. You chop up the stalks and extract all the goodness.
What’s more, it tastes nice. Honestly. Spinach may not be your obvious choice of base for a drink, but give it a go.
Yes, even you, Sunday footballer – take my word for it, a spinach, fruit and seeds drink will slip down with the satisfying glug of a chilled pint. But without the hangover.
It also fills you up. Really. For those of us with the tendency to throw in a cheeky biscuit every now and then, this is a merciful intervention – something tasty and filling that won’t make your molars tumble to the floor.
But best of all, the washing-up is minimal. The one thing that worried me was that I would spend ten minutes cleaning the machine every time I made a drink, which would basically kill my enthusiasm after a day.
But no – it takes moments. Someone, frankly, has spent a lot of time thinking about this.
That’s why I’m sitting here now, considering a large cup of green liquid. The one thing this gizmo doesn’t do is make its produce look terribly appealing.
To be honest, it looks a little bit like pond water at the height of summer, when that bright green algae has proliferated. But get past the appearance, and it tastes great.
I’ve never been a big one for the New Year health kick, but this might be my gateway drug.
Maybe I’ll start going to spinning classes next, or doing yoga or tai chi.
More likely, I've found that I only embrace fitness when there’s some reward.
Football is fun; running lets me listen to podcasts; health drinks actually taste nice. Especially when you add some goji berries...
A quick thought on big business. We were sent a letter last week reminding us that the car insurance was up for renewal, and telling us that it would be £850 for both cars.
No, we didn’t have to do anything – we could just sit back and allow the money to go out of our account.
Funnily enough, I thought that was a good idea for them, but a lousy one for me.
So I went on the same company’s website, entered the same details about the same cars and the same drivers. And did I get the same result? Of course not.
No, as a newcomer, rather than a loyal existing customer, the price I was offered was £470. That's £380 cheaper – not far off half the price. How can you justify that? Answer – they can’t.
Of course we learn to shop around, to appreciate that online prices are often less, but to assure customers they can sit back and let the company sort out their deal for them is outrageous when they’re being so hugely overcharged.
I’m lucky. I had the time, know-how and confidence to chase up the price and to get the company to sort itself out.
But how many vulnerable customers are being disadvantaged, I wonder?
Insurance companies should be smart enough to offer their best price – not just something that they think they’ll get away with.
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