With health minister Leo Varadkar campaigning for a 20% tax on fizzy drinks in the upcoming Budget and latest figures reporting that six in every 10 Irish people are overweight - the issue of child nutrition is a hot topic.
I was an eighties child. The era of the power ballad, Fraggle Rock and the birth of convenience food. As a child I grew up on crispy pancakes, alphabet spaghetti, and potato waffles. That was the way we all ate.
As we grew up our lives got busier and busier. We didn’t have time to cook, and as a nation we got fat. It's not exactly anyone’s fault, it's just society. But there is a bigger problem out there some of our children, and not by choice, are getting fatter than their parents.
1. Convenience food
We don’t know what we are eating with convenience foods. I'll avoid being preachy, and I'll admit that once in a while a frozen pizza isn’t going to hurt anyone. But when it's every night, that’s the problem. Our kiddies are starting the day with sugar-filled cereal and ending it with fish fingers and chips.
As parents we are tired, we don’t want to fight over 'what’s for dinner' in the evening. We just don’t have the energy. Trying to break the habit bit by bit is the key. Maybe just use a free rainy Saturday (we have plenty in Ireland), get the kids involved and cook in bulk. Find easy healthy recipes and freeze, for the week. This is much cheaper than convenience food too.
2. Pester power
Okay, I’ve been guilty myself of buying a packet of Peppa Pig crisps. Our children know all the big brands and logos on food products. But some of them don’t know the names of everyday fruit and vegetables. They are bombarded with logos and advertising everywhere they look.
Have a chat with your children about 'junk' food and real food. We have to educate them to make better choices by giving them nutritional information on their food. And get them involved from shelf to plate - by asking them to prepare the food they're learning about, they generally don't mind eating it afterwards (see number 7)!
When kids are having treats every day it's not a treat… it’s just food. We’ve all fallen into the trap of using goodies as rewards. Use your time as a reward. That’s the most valuable thing a child can have.
We drive our children everywhere. Especially in our climate - it's easy to use the weather as an excuse for not getting out and walking anywhere. A wise person once said there is no such thing as bad weather - just bad clothing! Get some rain gear (all the German supermarkets are selling them), turn off the telly and tablet, get out, get wet, and live a little.
5. Sugary drinks (not just fizzy ones)
The myth about fruit juice is we think it's healthy (of course it’s healthy it has a picture of a lovely orange on it). However, some 'nutritious' drinks that are aimed at children can have up to 18 spoons of sugar and around 120 calories. These are just empty calories - they rot teeth and are a major factor in childhood obesity. It’s good practice only to offer fruit juice at meal times and dilute it with water limiting the sugar intake.
As parents we are the best teachers in the world. It’s sometimes hard to grab a minute and talk to our children about the importance of good food. About how food is fuel and it makes our body function. Children will want to eat nutritional food if they know it gives them more energy - believe me. We can’t just assume they will learn this stuff at school. There are so many excellent websites out there. If you don’t know where to even start, the food pyramid is a great place. Enjoy it and make it fun!
7. Ready - Steady - Cook!
As a society somewhere down the line we stopped cooking. We can blame a load of factors on this, and say 'well, potato waffles didn’t do me any harm' or it was far from asparagus I was reared. Which may be true, but children can’t make their own choices, that’s our job. Let’s make good ones.
- One Yummy Mummy