Healthy Eating: Getting It Right from the Start?

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Some children are being sent to school with just cold chips or a packet of biscuits for lunch, a survey published this week has revealed. The Children’s Food Trust, which carried out the poll, revealed some unsettling insights into children’s diets.

The results showed that not only are many children provided with unhealthy foods, some are also not given enough to eat. In fact, 85% of adults asked in the poll who work with children have seen youngsters in this situation. And perhaps more shocking – 72% of teachers surveyed have seen children who have arrived at school having skipped breakfast, with no lunch and no means to pay for one. So what’s going on?

Rising living costs of course play their part in the problem, with someone today needing almost £300 to have the equivalent purchasing power of £100 30 years ago1. It’s fair to say that times are tough, but is this solely the reason why one in three children are overweight by the time they reach their ninth birthday?

A report headed by Ella’s Kitchen founder Paul Lindley entitled Averting a Recipe for Disaster surveyed parents in December 2012. Results showed that 26% said the price of buying fresh ingredients was the main barrier to healthy eating in the home. However, the report revealed that the main issue was a lack of education and culinary knowledge. It highlights the importance of teaching parents to implement healthy food habits from the time a baby is first weaned – and getting it right from the start. After all, it’s during the first year babies will develop relationships with certain foods that may last a lifetime.

The government has announced plans to tackle the obesity epidemic (which currently costs the NHS £6 billion a year) by implementing compulsory lessons in cookery and nutrition within schools. The lessons, which begin in September 2014, will teach 7-14 year olds how to cook healthy, affordable meals. The aim is to help pupils build up a repertoire of 20 dishes by the time they leave school, allowing them to pass on their knowledge at home, and eventually, their own children. There are also plans to prevent pupils bringing in their own food by introducing compulsory school meals, which some parents may believe infringes on their right to decide what their child eats.

A review of school meals in 2005 led by Jamie Oliver highlighted the issue, but eight years on, only one in five schools provide children with at least one portion of fruit and vegetables every day2. Clearly, there’s still a lot of work to be done.

What do you think of the government’s plans to change schoolchildren’s eating habits? Do you think they’re enough to make a permanent difference? Or do you think we still need to work on implementing healthy eating and education for parents and pre-school children? Perhaps you find it difficult to cook healthy meals on a tight budget. Have any tips? We’d love to hear what you have to say.






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2 comments for “Healthy Eating: Getting It Right from the Start?

  1. Christine
    28/02/2013 at 11:01 pm

    I will remove my daughter from any school that tries to force a lunch on her (us). We eat a diet of fresh, homecooked food, 90% of which is organic. I will not allow her to eat cheap ‘contracted out to the lowest bidder’ school meals – who knows what food scandals will happen in the future?
    I will also take responsibility for ensuring she values food and can cook. These measures need to be targeted to areas of need, perhaps via children’s centres.
    It takes me 45 mins to make fresh, organic risotto that is nutritionally balanced and costs less than £2 per portion. If I went for decent quality, local but non-organic ingredients, I reckon I could do so for less than £1 per person. Good food is not the preserve of the rich.

  2. Sara
    04/03/2013 at 2:15 pm

    I would be appalled if schools took away the right of any parent to choose what their child should eat. School meals are useful for parents who do not have time to prepare packed lunches (although the night before whilst making dinner is my time of choice) but it should not be compulsory.
    Healthy food is not that hard to find at a cheap price either. I refrain from buying frozen vegetables as I prefer them fresh. Farmer’s Markets are ideal for this, cheaper than supermarkets and full of flavour (personally I think frozen food always tastes watery even after being told that freezing vegetables and fruit keeps in their sweetness).
    I also plan my meals, I find that I save money this way as I waste less food. Lastly, if I notice any fruit or vegetables going off I make smoothies or soups out of these.

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