Drink - Shane Watson on how milk is the new tabacco

I've tried telling Mother that milk is the new tobacco - but she'll have none of it

If I had to nominate the single biggest difference between my life and that of my mother (besides not having children or a husband, and having a job) it would be our attitude to food and drink. This has become the case only in the past few years. Before then, we were more or less on the same wavelength - neither of us cared that much what was put in front of us, so long as it tasted all right and didn't contain anti-freeze. Food was food and drink was drink. People who fussed about where this came from or what that had in it had other problems.

Well, that was five years ago. Since then, I've gone from being someone who never remotely considered reading the packaging and was quite partial to a Fanta, to being your average diet bore. First, it was the selenium supplements and the broccoli with everything. Now it's the green tea, the cup of hot water and lemon in the morning, the soya milk in the cappuccino, and the root ginger in hot water after lunch. Meanwhile, my mother has been left lagging behind in the Lucozade aisle, pontificating over whether the chocolate or the raspberry milk would be more fun for her visiting grandchildren. And I know, from the way she examines me over her bifocals, that she suspects I have been brainwashed by Moonies and will end up living in a bubble, breathing pure oxygen.

The new interest in what we consume seems to stop automatically with the septuagenarians. They simply can't be bothered to learn the highly complex rules of 21st-century dietary vigilance. And though they at least pretended to listen to the latest news breaking about pesticides on bagged salad, this recent assault on the drinks we have all consumed for decades has proved too much for them to bear. Try telling your parents that milk could be the new tobacco or that diet colas are only slightly healthier than cocaine, and you'll get a pretty cool reception, followed by a concerned phone call from your brother. I've tried to warn them that drinking decaffeinated instant coffee is like ingesting dry-cleaning fluid ("How am I supposed to get to sleep if I don't have my decaf?" my mother retaliated, suspecting me of deliberately sabotaging her health). I've bored them about the downsides of fizzy water at mealtimes and droned on about how cola was banned from the centre court during the filming of Wimbledon because spillages would have killed the grass. It's no use. You might as well try persuading them that John Wayne was gay.

Needless to say, there is no point in even starting to re-educate the older generation on the alcohol front. And about this, we absolutely agree. No one is ever going to persuade me that a few glasses of red aren't just what the body needs after a day spent watching the Es, the colourings and the wheat and dairy intake.