It’s hard to imagine a better advert for eating healthily than the fruit and veg stalls at Leeds Kirkgate Market.
Their multi-coloured array of the freshest produce is piled high, while on at the fishmongers’ row nearby, a selection wider than can be found at any supermarket is gleaming in ice.
So it’s fitting that the market is the location for a special shopping tour on offer in Leeds.
Leading the keen shoppers is community dietitian Rachel Vine, whose knowledge isn’t just of the best bargains – though there are plenty – but of how to shop more healthily.
She runs the Shop to Get Fitter tours, which take place once a month.
Anyone can sign up for one of the free hour-long tours, though they are especially aimed at people with long-term conditions such as heart disease or stroke.
And though shopping healthily may sound simple, there’s a surprising amount to learn – not least how best to avoid those tempting offers on naughty-but-nice treats (never going food shopping when hungry and always making a list are Rachel’s top tips).
The tour, which is run by Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, begins at the Leeds Let’s Change centre next to the Ministry of Food in the market.
Rachel introduces herself at the start and explains what the tour involves – a short stroll round some of the stalls, including a butcher, fishmonger and grocer, before returning to the centre to look at the confusing world of food labels.
It’s all to help people learn more about eating well, she explains.
“That’s if you can make sure that all the ingredients you buy are as healthy as possible,” Rachel says.
“It also could be eating less red meat. What’s better is during the week eating more poultry, fish and more beans.”
Our first stop is butchers’ row.
Choosing the cut of meat is important, Rachel says, as cheaper cuts usually contain more fat – which not only is unhealthy, you also get less.
“Leaner meats cost more, but you are getting more meat for your money,” she explains.
It’s also a chance to talk about portion size, with her asking the group how many people 1lb of mince would serve when made into bolognese sauce.
The answer is four, but some on the tour confess that they wouldn’t always make it go so far.
And there’s tips on cooking too, with the advice being always to bake or grill where possible – and if you do pan fry, use a non-stick pan that needs less oil.
Next it’s on to the greengrocer, where the staff are only too happy to point out their more unusual products, like the romanesco cauliflowers.
Rachel explains the current advice to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day.
“The best way to get a good range of vitamins and minerals is by eating lots of different colours of fruit and veg,” she says.
Eating what’s in season makes the market’s already affordable produce even more cost-effective, the group are told, while there’s also a discussion about whether potatoes and onions count as one of your five-a-day (they don’t).
At the fresh fish stall, Rachel admits many people are apprehensive about fish, but explains the fishmonger will always, remove heads, bones, skin and also advise on the best recipes for different types.
Then there’s a quick stop-off at the egg stall, where the group are told that they are cheap, versatile and as long as not eaten to excess, healthy.
Over a cuppa at the Leeds Let’s Change Centre, Rachel goes over the Eat Well plate, which shows what proportions the major food groups should be eaten in.
And using ready meal packaging and mock pats of butter, she shows the group how to understand how much fat is in food according to their label. It’s eye-opening, especially when she explains some of the manufacturer’ tricks, like including a photo of a meal with vegetables on the packet, when none is included.
Afterwards there’s a chance to give feedback – and the verdict is that the shoppers are happy.
* To book a place on the tour or for more information, contact 0113 2952858.