herald

Tuesday 24 April 2018

My zero tolerance for those feeding kids junk

I've just heard that TV3 is seeking households to take part in a new health show. Called Doctor in The House, they are hoping to film candidates who are concerned that their "lifestyle or hereditary conditions may cause [them] health problems in the future".

The new series will see a team of medical experts monitoring a household's lifestyle over several months and carrying out comprehensive health screenings to provide an assessment on disease risk factors.

They also promise that "a personalised plan will be devised in a bid to encourage each member of the house to make real changes in their lifestyle to benefit their future health".

It sounds like a great idea, and it's open to anyone who lives under the one roof. That means groups of friends, students, couples or families can sign up for consideration. I don't know about you, but I'd love our family to get the equivalent of a health NCT. I can also think of a few people I know who would thoroughly benefit from the experience.

Every day we hear scary statistics about obesity and bad diets. We only need to take a look around us to see overweight parents, children with their faces stuck in games consoles and pizza delivery bikes dropping off at the same houses every week.

Most local schools I know of have a healthy eating policy, requesting that parents only choose wholesome food for their children's lunchboxes. As far as I know it's a countrywide policy, but the degrees to which it is monitored and adhered to vary greatly.

The son of a friend of mine told her that there were at least two children in his class who ate chocolate bars or biscuits every day.

Staff never said a word about this, although I'm certain my friend wasn't the only parent being asked by their child why X could have chocolate but they couldn't.

In contrast, I've a friend whose children's school actively polices their lunchboxes. No junk food means no junk food – lunches are subjected to random spot-checks and 'contraband' is removed. This kind of enforcement deserves applause, although it is fair to ask whether it's the role of a school to educate a whole family.

I know of parents who would be up in arms if their children's chocolate was removed from their lunchboxes. They're the same people who aren't smart enough to ask why the rule needs to be implemented in the first place. They're the kind of people who think sweets are integral to their child's happiness.

PROBLEMS

Aside from the blatant ignorance of flouting school rules (What kind of message is that giving your children – just ignore the rules that don't suit you?), it's simple to limit a treat to after-school hours, if they really need to. Grapes, raisins, berries, oatcakes and yoghurts are all healthier, smarter substitutions.

Of course, there's little point in teaching children about the benefits of healthy eating and exercise at school if they're going home to a house where ready meals, crisps, juice and junk food are favoured over fresh fruit and veg, water and milk.

What we feed our children will most likely go on to define their relationship with food. And while it's incorrect to suggest that every child who eats treats every day will go on to have health problems, it's reasonable to expect that you, as parent, are quite likely paving the way for problems like diabetes, weight and dental issues.

If you're OK with that, then fire away with those lunchtime treats.

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