BBC Southern Counties interviews me yesterday over a planned initiative to give healthy eating advice to pre school children. Will it work?
I’m not sure you can solve the problem of child and adult obesity through the mind of a 5 year old child. Many know what healthy eating is (many do not) but children want to enjoy what they eat more than anything else and they have high levels of neo-phobia, dislike of new tastes. Adults care less and adults will happily knock back a kale smoothie that tastes disgusting for the sake of their health.
Childhood and adult obesity begins with maternal diet, in pregnancy and even post natal if mum is breast feeding. The taste of veggies come through in the milk and make it easier for children later on to accept their greens. So the solution lies with parents in the first place and the environment in the second place. We have to teach nurseries and schools to adopt a healthy no sugar policy for meals and snacks. Totally!
Teaching healthy eating to children means demonising certain foods and many ignorant teachers will teach them that fat is bad and sugar is bad so if you eat those foods you are bad. This may create eating anxiety among vulnerable children and could lead to eating disorders among the kids who are most sensitive.
We live in a society where it is hard to get the balance right. When mum turns up for the school run with a bunch of carrot sticks she is trying to keep her child healthy but the child may rebel down the line when they find their own spending power. I see this struggle at home as my own children try to be good parents and teach their kids how to live a healthy lifestyle. So they become good at finding out where to get their treats.
As for spending £1 million on this new initiative. Better to put the money into Sure start and pre natal teaching. What do you think?