Written by: Cally Worden
With the UK topping the European childhood obesity chart, it’s clear that the eating habits of many British families are less than healthy. Some 25% of our youngsters are classed as overweight, with government figures suggesting that this figure is set only to rise. It is estimated that 40% of our population will be obese by 2025. Recent studies on the rise in child dental problems also suggest that all is definitely not well in the average diet of a UK child.
In a survey of 1000 parents conducted by kids’ cookery guru Annabel Karmel, 8 out of 10 confessed to including sweets and chocolate in their kids’ lunchboxes, with 1 in 5 admitting to feeding their kids sugary cereals for breakfast in favour of healthier wholegrain options or porridge. Is this sending out the wrong message to our kids? I’m not convinced. If that same breakfast or lunchbox also includes a piece of fruit then what’s wrong with everything in moderation? I think the wider issue is the overall diet of many households.
Encouragingly the same survey also revealed that more than 50% of parents make good efforts to include a variety of fruit and veg in their kids’ diets, hiding blended veg in pasta dishes, and offering fruit for dessert. 7 out of 10 parents said their kids prefer fruit to sweets, biscuits and fizzy drinks. And nearly 50% cited iron and veg rich Spaghetti Bolognese as their kids’ favourite dish.
So where is it all going wrong?
Interestingly, the survey revealed a north/south divide on food favourites, with those in the north east apparently favouring less healthy options by choice than those respondents based in the south. Knowing that average salaries are higher in the south, this would suggest that budget is part of the issue. But it is perfectly possible to eat sensibly on little money if you know how. So maybe education is the key to guiding our kids in the right diet direction?
My kids have sweets , chocolate biscuits and crisps – from time to time. They are not overweight. They get three square, nutritionally balanced and home-prepared meals each day. Well, most days. I’m sure we all have those Freezer Days when a pizza and oven chips are the perfect antidote to the stresses of life. I know our family diet isn’t perfect, but it’s okay.
The cries of ‘lack of money’ or ‘too busy and tired to cook’ don’t particularly wash with me. My husband and I both work full time. We live on a not-very-big budget. We shop carefully, and at the end of a busy day roll up our sleeves in the kitchen and cook. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Many family-friendly meals are so simple to make you can whip them up in almost as little time as it takes to rummage in the freezer for a ready meal. And they can cost just pennies if your plan it right.
I’m not saying it’s easy – it takes thought and effort. And I’m sure that in certain circumstances there are genuine reasons why parents can’t regularly provide healthy food options to their kids. I’m not so naive as to imagine that everyone has the means or knowledge. And yet this obesity problem is becoming a crisis. What do you think the problem is, and what more can we as parents do to help?