Children and Diet

 Contributed by Dr Simon Crouch: @srcrouch

Facilitating Debate

Facilitating Debate

While this blog makes for a halcyon picture of reminiscence it highlights the struggle we face to ensure that children are both provided with healthy diets and the necessary signposts to teach them healthy eating habits.

In the UK it is recommended that all children aged 11 years and over should eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Recent data suggest that British kids aren’t even getting close. Data collected over four years from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey indicates that only 10% of boys and 7% of girls are meeting that target.

Internationally we see a similar picture. In Australia the recommendations are even more stringent – four portions of vegetables and a further three portions of fruit per day for children aged 12-18 years. Similar to their British cousins Australian children are also falling woefully short with only 5% meeting the target.

Childhood obesity is becoming an increasing issue in developed countries. Child health is one of the strongest predictors of lifelong health outcomes and obesity is one of the biggest threats to population health in an ever developing world. While physical activity is important for overall health it is a healthy diet that plays the most significant role in maintaining a healthy weight.

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There are many factors that impact on healthy behaviours, including family circumstances and the community in which individuals live, but with children spending such a large proportion of their informative years in school it is important that the school environment is promoting healthy diets.

Fish, chips and mushy peas topped off with jam sponge and custard may be a delight to tastebuds harking back to a bygone era but this meal arguably contains only one serve of fruit or vegetable (I am not even sure if the mushy peas count). In no way does it achieve the national standards which stipulate that every school meal must contain at least two serves of fruit or veg.

Jamie Oliver may not be loved by everyone but he has played a role in highlighting this issue and helped pushed governments to begin the slow process of cultural change. But students and parents alike need to continue to strive for healthier diets in all contexts, particularly where government standards do apply.

Education in schools is not confined to the classroom and should not be put on hiatus when the kids go for lunch. The school canteen is the perfect place to teach our children how to lead healthy lives, and perhaps the best way to their brains is through their tummies.

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