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Mini Minds

Breaking the obesity cycle

Mary Llewellin

Recipe-Mag-May17-004.jpg

Type 2 diabetes amongst children, once almost unheard of, is on the increase according to a report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. They found that more than 600 children and young people under 25 were treated for Type 2 diabetes in 2015/16 in England and Wales, including some aged between five and nine. 78% of the young people in the audit were also categorised as obese, a strong contributing factor in the development of Type 2 diabetes along with unhealthy diets.

According to government figures, around one in five children starting primary school now is overweight or obese and the figure rises to one in three by the time they leave. That’s one in three children who have an increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in later life and facing the possibility of associated health problems like amputations, blindness, heart attacks and strokes if they don’t learn how to manage their weight and eating habits effectively.

The cost of this to the NHS, and therefore to us all, is going to be horrifying if nothing is done to reverse the trend. The government has responded by launching a new initiative to get food manufacturers to reduce the calories in some of the most popular products like ready meals, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and savoury snacks. This initiative follows the push to reduce salt and then sugar which evolved into the Change 4 Life Sugar Smart app. Public Health England will be setting targets aimed at reducing calories in meals, snacks and drinks from supermarkets, restaurants and takeaways and, although these will be voluntary, they could be followed by legislation if the industry does not respond.

The trouble is, that we’ve been here before and nothing changes. When products are labelled as “healthy” because they are low fat, we then discover that the sugar or salt content has been doubled to compensate for the lack of flavour and preservative property of the fat. Salt, sugar and fat are what makes ready meals and takeaways so addictive and our taste buds have been trained to want more and more. Ready meals, snacks and sugary drinks are inherently unhealthy and many contain long lists of unappetising ingredients which really cannot lead to a healthy diet. Check out the ingredients in this popular food item and see if you can guess what it is:

Soybean Oil (Antioxidant (330)), Water, Relish [ Pickles, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Distilled Vinegar, Preservative (202), Thickener (415), Flavourings], Mustard [Water, Distilled Vinegar, Mustard Seed, Salt, Sugar, Colours (150d, 100), Spice], Salted Egg Yolks, Distilled Vinegar, Onion, Thickeners (1442, 415, 405), Spices, Sugar, Salt, Hydrolysed Protein (Corn Gluten, Soy, Wheat Gluten), Preservative (211), Colours (160c, 150d, 100), Emulsifier (433), Garlic, Antioxidant (385).

Sounds delicious doesn’t it? These are the ingredients in the special sauce on a MacDonalds big mac apparently. It doesn’t take a genius to see that a diet so full of articial “food” is never going to be a healthy option.

I don’t think we should leave our health and that of our children at the mercy of big food manufacturers at all. Let’s give our children back the power to control their own health by reducing their reliance on convenience foods. The importance of all aspects of our food and health, including growing, cooking from scratch, eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting down on meat (especially hormone and antibiotic-pumped, mass-produced meat) and taking regular exercise should be taught far more rigorously in schools or children will never have the skills to break this cycle of ill-health. 

As Snapdragons parents, you can rest assured that your children are eating food that is always made from scratch so we know exactly what goes into their meals. We do not add salt and colourings and all our puddings use lower sugar recipes. We don’t use ready-made sauces (one of the worst culprits for high salt and sugar). If you see yoghurt on the menu it’s natural, unflavoured and the fruit purees served with it are simply blended fruit with no added sugar. We add extra vegetables, beans and pulses to stews, casseroles and even sausage rolls, to make sure that the children hit their five a day too.

Please ask us if you ever have any questions about how we make the food and we will be happy to tell you and don’t forget that some of our recipes are shared on the website and in our magazine.