Putting healthy eating in the spotlight at Vive La Vallette LBG

In this blog, our Eat Well Specialist, Tanya Dorrity, shares her experience of being a key part of the food offering at the new café at the bathing pools:

After reading about the plans for redevelopment for the area and further progress being made at the bathing pools, I met with the Vive La Vallette team in January 2021. This was a great opportunity to get involved at the beginning of this community project and try to ensure that, not only would people be able to benefit their physical and mental health through sea swimming in a beautiful location, but that the food environment was able to support their health and wellbeing too. 

My role at the Health Improvement Commission involves making access to healthy food and drinks easier, more appealing, and more affordable. 

The team at Vive La Vallette understood and agreed with our mission, they wanted to make health a priority at their site – great news!

During our initial conversations, we discussed the four key Eat Well aims that we focus on: 

- Reducing processed meats 

- Reducing sugar intake 

- Increasing fibre 

- Increasing fruit and vegetable consumption 

The big question for a business or organisation where a café is part of their business model is how on earth do you manage to create a healthy offering and remain profitable?

We spoke about the success of nudging techniques used to persuade people to make healthier choices, encouraging them to go for the healthier option. We discussed the benefits of placing products that are high in fat, salt, or sugar out of direct eye level. Relocating food and drinks such as moving healthier items to the top rows of vending machines or fridges and moving less healthy items to the bottom; removing less healthy items from counter tops; and placing only healthier items immediately at entrances and exits of a retail outlet; can all influence what we purchase, without taking away our options. 

We were fortunate to be able to steer plans around cooking practices and the menu. The long-term effect on overall health of taking these decisions in the early stages of a new project are not to be underestimated. Based on this, the team at Vive La Vallette decided not to include a deep fat fryer in their new kitchen. We know there are healthier ways to prepare our food and are pleased they decided to put health first. 

We then engaged with the brilliant chef Danial Green. Daniel has many years in the catering industry most notably as the head-chef at The Auberge at Jerbourg and latterly as the chef for the Perkins family and all their staff at their head office in St Saviours. Daniel is an excellent chef with a real passion for food and I approached him to work with the team at Vive La Vallette to advise them on the menu, and the logistics of setting up a café. Having Daniel's notable expertise at the design stage allowed the team to consider what appliances should be ordered to kit out the kitchen while always considering reliability, speed and health. Examples of this advice is the coffee machine which provides delicious bean to cup, locally sourced coffee, barista style but at the press of the button so that anyone on duty can deliver high quality coffee to the customers.

"The benefits of these very early conversations around the food environment at La Vallette Bathing Pools will benefit our communities for many years to come. Easy quick wins such as; the decision to not install a deep fat fryer; the addition of homemade soup to the menu and the bang bang chicken wraps. All of these options are beneficial to health and try to make healthier food more available and affordable for all.

Daniel mapped out the menu which allowed for our 4 key aims to take centre stage. This ensures that every sandwich comes with vegetables, the fruit granola pot is always in an eye-catching position, with sausage rolls, for example, being out of sight (these are also more expensive than the fruit pot which is a great example of nudging) And, whilst there are delicious cakes on offer, these are homemade and made with butter and not made with margarine thus removing trans-fat from the ingredients. The cakes are often made with fruit, and they are cut into well-sized portions ensuring that the portion of cake consumed is 150kcal and not the 250+kcal that it might have been. This in turn means that you can still enjoy a slice of cake after you swim but not to the detriment of your health!"

Daniel Green

"We wanted to evolve the food offering away from standard beach kiosk food – fried chips, burgers, sweets, crisps etc. and our discussions with HIC and Daniel Green helped us create an initial menu that has evolved into a simple grab-n-go offering that is regularly assessed for its suitability for our context. We were clear that fried food would not be served despite expectations of many community members.

We have intentionally kept the offering small to nudge people towards one of few hot food choices and this has increasingly seen people choose our vegan and GF homemade soup instead of less fibrous and processed food. We have sold over 700 vegetable soups since 1 January 2023, 190 granola pots and 80 porridge servings and while this is half the number of sales of bacon baps, the soup is second in our list of top 10 products."

Helen Bonner-Morgan from the team at the Vallette

The new La Vallette Bathing Pools opened in April 2022 in one of the hottest summers on record. The Community of Guernsey has responded to the new look pools with positivity and happiness to see the site flourish. It’s been amazing to see the offering develop and become a ‘must visit’ for islanders and tourists alike. With a team of smiling volunteers and a new, passionate café manager, serving up brilliant food such as warming homemade soup packed full of your five a day, I think that we can all congratulate the team on the fact that the success of the area is written in the granite for many happy years to come.