It saddens me that we have a nation of children who, in this time of plenty, are the most unhealthy since records began. With the tremendous advance in healthcare and medicine lives will be prolonged but they will not be lives full of health and vitality. Live long and prosper? There need to be some big, big changes for that.
I was recently given the food diary of a teenager. In each seven days the child, (and yes, physically still a child with growth and organ development still important) had one piece of fruit and no vegetables. Somewhat short of the five-a-day target. Potatoes don’t count as these are in the starchy carbohyrdates group. Nor do a few scraps of iceberg lettuce and cucumber found in a wrap.
Now, my big issue here is this: how on earth can a young person who has lunch at school five days a week have such a poor diet? Surely, at least five of their weekly meals should consist of all the necessary food groups in the right balance. So I’d be expecting to see protein (there was tuna twice), fibre (there was a small amount in a wrap and some pasta…wholemeal would be a far better option), carbs (there were carbs a-plenty but all bad ones), fruit and vegetables. The apple was eaten at home.
The diary showed a lack of all the important vitamins and minerals, not enough protein for muscle and nerve development and repair, no complex carbs for sustainable energy and not enough fibre to keep every thing healthy. Fibre doesn’t only help you poo, it encourages fermentation of the good bacteria in your gut so should good nutrients happen by, the gut can do its job.
What the diary did show was a dangerous amount of sugar, a large amount of it bought and consumed at school. And it is dangerous. A diet high in sugar leads to a very high risk of obesity, many cancers, kidney disease, heart disease, liver disease, dementia, diabetes type 2, circulatory problems, failing eyesight, loss of limbs. Also, mood swings, depression, confusion, aggression, irritabilty. No wonder the World Health Organisation consider it on a par with alcohol and smoking.
School is the place our children should be safe and nurtured. Nurtured mentally and physically. We should be able to trust our schools to do this. We should be content in knowing our schools not only provide wholesome fare but do not provide sugar laden food and drink. Why are fizzy drinks and chocolate available in schools?
Our schools should be teaching our children good habits and leading by example. Perhaps it’s time to revert to the old system of school dinners, paid for once a term and presented to the children as a fait accompli…or a plate accompli! Should we go back to the dining hall/refectory style as clearly, the canteen style is not working?