The British Heart Foundation estimates that at least a third of the UK’s population aged 11 to 15 years is overweight or obese.The implications are alarming, to say the least. Based on other studies along the same lines, about 80% of that group will be obese by the time they reach adulthood, and subject to
The British Heart Foundation estimates that at least a third of the UK’s population aged 11 to 15 years is overweight or obese.The implications are alarming, to say the least. Based on other studies along the same lines, about 80% of that group will be obese by the time they reach adulthood, and subject to all the health problems related to that condition, including heart disease.
There is little argument about the presumption that children who grow up eating the ubiquitous fast foods laden with sugar, fat and salt establish an eating pattern that tends to stay with them in later life. Current statistics suggest that if the present trend continues, by 2050 as many as nine out of ten UK adults will be overweight or obese.Health and dietary professionals repeatedly stress the importance of educating children about the ways in which the foods they eat affect their bodies. That sort of education needs to start at home, but schools can play a major role when it comes to influencing a child’s early eating habits. A leading London cardiologist, Dr. Aseem Malhotra, believes that primary schools should be delivering the message about healthy eating habits loud and clear.
Dr. Malhotra argues that though the government has set standards for school lunches in maintained schools, there is no regulation on private and non-maintained schools, and of course no regulation at all on what kids bring in packed lunches. On top of that, manufacturers of typical kid’s foods tend to market the ‘yummy’ factor over any health benefits when they advertise where those kids will notice, namely in TV commercials and on supermarket shelves.One London school Malhotra observed has instigated a reward programme for kids who bring a piece of fresh fruit in their packed lunch – and for those who do not bring a package of crisps or a chocolate bar. The reward is only a sticker, but the scheme apparently has a fairly strong impact on the children when it’s combined with information they can understand and appreciate.
Schools can invite local health authorities to talk with children on a level that makes sense to them, like explaining how the heart works and what makes it work better in the activities they enjoy. Once they get interested in the topic, kids will inevitably learn more and apply that knowledge to their own behaviour.Judy Hargadon, chief executive of the School Food Trust, said that eating a balanced diet should become the social norm for children, and could if schools provided the right information and parents supported their efforts. Both these professionals suggest that the government should back this concerted effort with stricter regulations on the advertising and packaging of kid’s foods.