Should calories be on children’s menus?
This question came up when the Nottingham Post contacted me recently about a local woman who was worried calorie information on children’s menus could encourage, amongst other things eating disorders
There is no getting away from the fact that child obesity is on the increase; in England the latest data* shows that nearly 23% of 4-5 year olds and 34% of 10-11 year olds are either overweight or obese. The NHS under certain circumstance will even carry out bariatric surgery (gastric bands etc) on children; 23 operations for patients aged 12-17 were undertaken between 2011 – 2013
As with many things the answer of whether or not children’s meals should carry calorie data is not that simple.
Growing children have high calorie needs for bone, brain and muscle development, they are also (generally) more active and therefore need a full range of different foods to supply those calories.
But why all the concern in the first place, surely a few extra cakes, biscuits, cans of fizzy drinks or burgers can’t do that much harm, Can they?!
According to the NHS
Children who are overweight or obese can develop health problems during childhood because of their weight. Health problems can include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, fatty liver disease, gallstones and risk factors for heart disease. These health problems have traditionally been problems just affecting adults, with overweight and obese adults having an increased risk of developing them. But because of the rises in the levels of childhood obesity, some of these obesity-related health problems are now affecting younger people.
If manufacturers and retailers go down this route maybe a traffic light system may be the better option. Red; approach with caution (occasional treat), Amber; have as part of a balanced diet and Green; ‘fill your boots’
And finally I think the best way for children to learn how to eat healthily is to be guided by a parent, grandparent or carer. So us adults have to lead by example and learn to love our veggies, especially the green leafy kind and all those wonderful and colourful vegetables and fruits, snack on fresh fruit, drink plenty of water, limit the amount of processed and fast food that’s available and as family get active
There is lots of advice out there to help you and your families to make healthy choices, check out these websites: British nutrition foundation, NHS, gov.uk-school meals, children food trust, eat better start better
Or simply look though my blog and find family friendly recipes and dishes. I also offer nutritional advice and cooking lessons that are all family friendly
* House of commons briefing paper Obesity Statistics Number 3336, 20 March 2018