With the demise the low carb fad, could balanced eating become the latest dietary trend, asks Jackie David?

At its height, Atkins Nutritionals Inc was recording profits of £65m a year. Last month the US company that kicked off the whole low carb diet craze applied for bankruptcy protection, having held out only slightly longer than its UK operation, which went under earlier this year.

Despite being initially impressed by the posse of superstars who hailed the diet as a miracle weight loss system, Brits never quite managed to give up their potatoes, bread and pasta. According to Mintel, while 13% of consumers had tried a low-carb diet, less than 3% were following the regime when surveyed last September and an additional 10% had tried it and subsequently dropped out.

While the diet seems to work in terms of shedding the pounds, there are concerns about its long-term health impacts and some consumers may have found the premium attached to some products difficult to swallow. In addition there are signs Brits could be beginning to avoid fad diets in favour of a more balanced approach to eating. In which case, retailers could do well to stock up on porridge and fresh fruit and veg.

As reported in the last Health Matters, the latest dietary phrase is Glycaemic Index, or GI, and products with a low GI ranking are flying off the shelves at Waitrose. Sales of blackberries have increased by 264% since the same time last year, while porridge sales have shot up by 80% over the last six months.

“The diet’s popularity has had a pronounced effect on sales of Waitrose foods such as bananas, lentils and porridge that ensure blood sugar levels remain constant. Unlike fad diets, GI is based on sound nutritional principles and is likely to become the basis for everyday healthy eating for our shoppers,” says Waitrose’s Janey Berry.

An alliance has now been formed between the Grain Information Service, the Flour Advisory Bureau and The Federation of Bakers.

Together they have launched the Vitality Eating System (VES), a seven-day, low fat balanced eating plan.

Developed by nutritionists and endorsed by celebrities such as Cat Deeley and Lorraine Kelly, the plan comes in the form of a booklet with menus and other useful information designed to encourage a low fat, balanced diet.

VES is being distributed via Sainbsury’s pharmacies but there is scope for it to enter the convenience channel. The three associations are also exploring ways to communicate the health benefits of flour and grain-based products on pack. For info visit www.fabflour.co.uk.


LOSELEY has relaunched its Low Fat Set Bio Yoghurt in recyclable packaging. The probiotic product contains 1% fat and 101 calories per 100g (49p 150g). A Very Low Fat Set Natural BIO variant containing 0.2% fat and 55 calories per 100g (46p 150g; £1.39 500g) is also available.

THE MLC (Meat and Livestock Commission) is
co-ordinating a campaign highlighting the health benefits of eating beef. Consumer advertising and PR is aiming to drive home the message that beef is a good source of iron, protein and vitamins and challenges the conception that beef is fatty – according to the campaign, on average, lean uncooked beef contains around 4.3% fat.

THE DOH (Department of Health) has designated Septembe 30 ‘Stir FryDay’ as part of its ‘5 A Day’ programme. The aim of the event is to raise awareness of the campaign by showing how stir-fries are a good way to incorporate several portions of fruit and veg in the diet. Resource packs will be available from the website www.5aday.nhs.uk.

HIMALAYAN has added a white variety to its range of green teas. White tea is said to contain less caffeine than green or black and more antioxidants, and is more effective at killing bacterial viruses. Rrp £3.99 for 25 sachets or £16.99 for a 50g tin of loose tea.

PREMIER FOODS has launched a range of new fruit bars and smoothies which are the equivalent of one portion of fruit. Hartleys Fruit Smoothies come in two flavours and contain at least 93% fruit and the Fruit Bars contain at least 90% fruit. The smoothies retail at 49p for singles and £1.49 for multipacks, while the bars retail at 39p for singles and £1.85 for multipacks.

RYVITA has launched a range of Rice & Corn Cakes. Original and sesame bread flavours retail for 79p; high fibre 99p; and snack pack varieties £1.19. In addition, the company has added a Worcester Sauce flavour to its Minis range of low-fat snacks bagged snacks.