Health Warning: we are what we eat
One of the great fringe benefits of becoming a dad is that I was forced, at the age of 32, to grow up almost overnight.
My weekends no longer consist of watching Jeff Stelling and his pals on Soccer Saturday while supping endless pints of the gassy Belgian brew you can see through. Now my ‘days of rest’ tend to kick off at 6.30am with relentless demands for a bottle of the white stuff and it doesn’t tend to get any easier thereafter.
My challenges are no different from those facing millions of other parents, who vainly try to hide the zombie look with plenty of caffeine and a Jack Nicholson-esque grin.
The list of parenting dos and don’t we are forced to negotiate is endless: not getting any closer than six feet from the telly, no telly until they are ready for school and nursery, no telly after seven, bed by 8pm, teeth cleaned twice a day - and a proper clean mind you, not one of those six second jobs.
This is before you get to oversee homework you can barely understand yourself, or the now obligatory music practice. It is non-stop.
But the biggest challenge we undoubtedly face is making sure that our kids don’t end up sporting pot bellies before they start Year R as childhood obesity is a scourge which shows no sign of going away.
The figures are stark: one in five children are classed as obese before they start primary school while that increases to a frightening one in three by the time they are 11.
But it isn’t just youngsters’ weight which is affected as the number of children requiring at least one tooth to be tooth to be removed rises with each passing year. Last year that figure stood just under 41,000.
This isn’t anything new as we seemed to be aware of the dangers of too much sugar as far back as the late 1980s, yet successive Governments all over the world have failed to compel food giants to reduce how much they plough into their products.
Public Health England has set targets for manufacturers of certain foods to achieve by 2020. On the face of it, reducing sugar levels in foods such as chocolate bars, biscuits, yogurts, pastries and breakfast cereals by 20 per cent is positive, until you learn that these are guidelines and are unenforceable.
Food companies have long come under fire for their use of sugar in so many of their products but would we eat them without this injection of flavour? The fact that there are so many items on supermarket shelves with a sky high sugar content says more about those who consume them than anybody else.
After all, there is more information about what we eat, such as the traffic light system, than at any time in history yet we choose to ignore it. When we are in a rush to get home after work we throw any old rubbish into our basket, especially if it is among the reduced items so checking the sugar levels doesn’t come into it.
Then there is pester power as children will, more often than not, want the super sweet yogurt in a bright yellow pot than the fun-free version.
It is about time we faced up to our parental responsibilities and paid more attention to what we are feeding our children.