Supermum on a mission with Sunny Delight
ELY supermum Helen Bryan is a on a mission. A mission to debunk all the myths surrounding child nutrition, to find a working-class Nigella who can show mums how to cook on a budget. With her strong views on fake nutritionists who persuade mums to buy
ELY supermum Helen Bryan is a on a mission. A mission to debunk all the myths surrounding child nutrition, to find a "working-class Nigella" who can show mums how to cook on a budget. With her strong views on 'fake' nutritionists who persuade mums to buy organic and expensive foods, and previous experience in advertising and PR, Helen was an ideal candidate for the Sunny Delight Parental Advisory Group, She has spent the last two-and-a-half years in rebranding talks with the company.
CATHERINE ATKINSON reports
Working with 11 other mothers on the parental advisory group, Helen helped persuade the manufacturers of Sunny D to cut out many of the additives and sweeteners for which it had become notorious. She took the trial product out and about with her in Ely to get feedback from other families in the area and realised that a lot of people were worried about giving their children too much sugar.
So, is Sunny D no longer threatening to turn us all orange?
"Sunny D still contains E-numbers. But if they weren't safe, why would the European Union have given them a classification system? That's all they are, but people don't know what E107 means so automatically get worried. There are 17 E numbers in an apple but no one tells is saying that apples makes your kid hyper. What does make them hyper is sugar."
Helen says she was pleased to have found a company that wantedt to listen. Because Sunny D's profits had gone through the floor after negative publicity, they were very willing to hear the views of mums'.
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"I've never said Sunny D is a replacement for milk water or juice. It's a leisure drink. In its new form, with 12 percent less sugar, it's the only drink of its type to qualify for an amber light in the Government's new food labelling system. But this new traffic light system is misleading. No drink, not even orange juice, is ever going to qualify for a green light. To put it into context, Ribena would have to lower its sugar content by 40 per cent to even qualify for an amber."
So in the face of unclear Government advice on food, who should anxious mums turn to? Not TV chefs, says Helen.
"Three quarters of women my age don't know how to make a shepherd's pie. With all the TV chefs around you would have thought people were learning but their programmes are aimed at people who can already cook. Jamie Oliver has done great things with school dinners, but getting children to cook sea bass with yellow tomatoes? It's just not practical."
TV nutritionists are no better. "Why are we told that our kids should have soya bean milk for breakfast and pumpkin husks for tea? People like Gillian McKeith have no idea how to feed four kids on a budget of £80. They're living in cloud cuckoo land."
With four children, Helen has first-hand experience of being a busy but food-conscious mum.
Her second child Katharine, now 19, was very ill for the first three years of her life. "The doctor had to give her all these steroids which were threatening to ruin her insides and her skin for life. But he advised me, before all that sort of stuff was fashionable, to cut all additives out of her diet. Because we didn't have the access to information then, I had to do all the research myself and became really clued up on nutrition." From that time on, Helen stopped using unbleached flour and refined sugar in Katharine's diet. She is now a healthy allergy free 19-year-old.
So what happens when her children go round to friends' for tea?
"When my daughter Josephine came back from a friend's and I asked her what she had, she said she didn't know. It turned out she'd had a fish finger. I'd always just given them fillet of fish. People think kids love bland food but actually it's what they've grown up on that counts. Kids in India and the Mediterranean have spicy food. It's really patronising to give them a kids' menu with chicken nuggets on and make them sit at different tables. We've always eaten every meal together at the table, even if it's just a sandwich."
"I get up at five every morning, and make packed lunches for my kids from scratch, as well as a warm breakfast. Then we walk to school, and if it's raining we just put the brolly up. I've always worked even when I was a single mum. It's awful to say it, but people have just got lazy. Eat off smaller plates and do exercise. Don't try and tell me you're too busy. You might be too tired, but not too busy. Helen has a lot of help from her husband Stephen, who is apparently a whiz at knocking up a moules mariniere in five minutes after getting home from his job in the building trade.
"Eating well isn't a class issue," says Helen. Stephen and I both come from East End families. It's just that TV doesn't rule our lives. Most people would rather sit and watch Corrie than cook up a dinner for their children. But I don't want to attack people, they just need guidance.