THE Authorities have officially ruined food. Eating used to be a wholesome pastime, along with conkers and fighting your siblings.
Now it’s all guilt trips and counting portions of indigestible green stuff.
It’s enough to make you reach for a bottle of Rioja in desperation.
I must admit to being totally obsessed with the message of five portions of fruit and veg a day, which is rammed home at every opportunity by some grim-faced employee at the Department of Health.
It actually ruins my day sometimes. I will work out how many portions I have already managed to consume to see whether I need to add more peas to my evening meal. It drives husband Chris up the wall.
"Why have you put some broccoli with my fish and chips?" he asks in disgust. "I already have mushy peas on my plate."
"It gets our daily portion count up. We’re having melon afterwards."
"I hate melon. It’s tasteless and pointless. I’m having a chocolate bar instead."
And so it goes on. Plus the message can get perverted in the wrong hands. I think that scoffing an entire bar of 85% chocolate can be cancelled out by eating the recommended amount of different coloured veg on that particular day.
But that’s not healthy at all; it’s just the road to indigestion.
The whole Big Brother food conspiracy began when Kelloggs began putting daily recommended allowances on their cereal packets. I must have been a strange child, because while most kids were making their cut-out animal masks from the outside of the packet I was frowning over a load of figures.
It used to worry me. If I had eaten a third of my daily recommended portion of niacin and riboflavin in my morning bowl of cereal, where were the other two-thirds going to come from? Did my mother know whether I was getting enough or would my hair all fall out?
It was just anxiety-raising for a poor child and probably had a disproportionately negative effect on my health in the long run.
And how has the world survived two world wars when bananas were only seen in movies about gorillas and people ate powdered eggs, fish heads and luncheon meat on a daily basis?
By rights, none of the population should have survived beyond school age, especially if you believe the latest reports from the Grim Reapers on how not to get cancer.
According to extensive research (presumably funded by the vegetable and fruit growers) all processed meats – particularly gorgeous bacon and ham – are a no no.
That's just wrong. What happened to everything in moderation? Why is no- one allowed to enjoy life anymore?
I like cereal, but for breakfast every now and then you want a bacon and egg sandwich with brown sauce dripping out on to your hand. It’s just one of the things worth living for.
Although if you are a worrier like me you tend to encase it in granary bread and make sure you down a glass of orange juice at the same time.
Our friend Tim eats fairly normally until he goes on his regular mountaineering and climbing trips.
Then every night (even if he is away for a week) he eats gammon and pineapple. To vary his diet, he may replace the pineapple with an egg. He also consumes a Full English every morning.
As soon as I heard the catastrophic warnings against the humble pig I had to find out what Tim thought.
He was unrelenting. "I like gammon," was his main argument. Fair point.
What really irritates me though is the large proportion of the medical establishment – exactly the po-faced harridans who insist we all live on aloe vera and alfalfa – who have the worst eating and drinking habits of everybody.
Take my GP sister, for example. For years she survived on just a daily slab of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk supplemented with takeaway curries that had preferably been sitting in her fridge for several days with a cold fork in them.
She defended her diet by insisting that she received all the necessary vitamins and minerals from the milk in the chocolate. She now freely doles out advice about obesity to her patients without dreaming of ever taking it herself.
And it’s insidious. Even if you rebel against every piece of advice going some of it is bound to stick. As soon as you become a parent you have an added interest, being solely responsible for your ankle-biters’ diets until they are old enough to choose KFC instead.
So now I obsess about my son’s diet, even adding the odd bit of broccoli to his fish and chips behind his father’s back. Strange then that a naughty part of me is secretly pleased that at nursery he has eaten only half his vegetable bake but has wolfed down all his banana cake and ice cream.
I wonder whether that would count towards his five portions?