The summer holidays are finally here, school has broken up, and our days are much less structured. During school time, I really dislike that rush in the morning and then having to keep my eye on the clock for picking up time later, so this chilled out and more relaxed time is very welcome and very lovely; quality time with my boy.
Regular readers will know that I’m very keen on my son having as healthy and nutritious a diet as possible. I don’t mean to say that he never has sweets or cake, never has fizzy drinks. It’s what we do regularly that matters and I believe that maybe these things should not be given every day. We all need to take the easy option sometimes, and goodness knows we have our share of take-away food in particularly busy weeks, but it’s what we do the majority of the time that counts.
In the holidays it’s very easy to let things slip a little and life would be very boring with no treats or splurges. We all let our hair down and make different food choices when we are on holiday, things we wouldn’t normally eat every day, and I don’t see why it should be any different for children. So you might well find a box of Coco-Pops in the cupboard and cake in the tin, but we try to limit those things. An example from breakfast time: Coco-Pops go very well with porridge made with milk and they stir in beautifully to make lovely chocolatey swirls. Brilliant with strawberries! This way, my little one has a predominately healthy breakfast with a small handful of Coco-Pops, which of course he loves, because they are full of sugar and designed to be irresistible.
I’m not keen on the so-called Nanny State or the idea that we should be nagged into making the “right” choices. Balance is the name of the game, in my opinion. But I do think that education is important. Our dentist tells a story from not long ago when he was at another practice, where he was required to fit a seven year old for dentures. His parents had allowed him to have sugar every day, in the form of sweets, and more potently, fizzy drinks, and hadn’t been properly aware that this was going to rot his teeth faster than anything else. A constant wash of sugar over the tongue promotes the desire for it even more, leading not just to weight issues, but dental problems too.
So I was interested to see these two infographics produced by BMI Healthcare entitled How to Live to 100. They have been produced in response to a study conducted by them into how it is that unhealthy habits that begin in childhood can have a serious impact on longer term health. Although it’s never too late to make changes such as giving up smoking, never to begin smoking in the first place would be preferable.
According to the BMI study, currently one third of children aged 10 and 11 suffer from obesity or weight related issues. When I was that age, it was unusual to see an overweight child, now even very little ones are overweight; BMI Healthcare reports that 1 in 10 reception age children is obese. Why this should be, why this change has occurred are questions currently puzzling greater minds than mine.
How does the current way of living impact on childhood nutrition? Life is very different now and our lifestyles can impact in many different ways, on adults as well as younger ones. None of us feels safe letting our children out to play on their own, as children used to do. In years gone by, ice creams and desserts weren’t readily available in the supermarkets like they are now. What used to be consumed occasionally can now be consumed every day. As the graphic suggests walking or cycling to school is a good idea, but this isn’t practical for everyone. Many parents work, they drop their children at school in the car and then drive to work. Our house is too far from our school to walk there; it would take over an hour each way. Another suggestion is to organise an activity for the weekend. After a busy week, everyone needs some down time, including the adults. Money and time availability due to shift work may also be considerations. These are great suggestions, but the pace and structure of modern life often doesn’t make it easy.
If we agree that our children are the future, then the disadvantages of poor nutrition are going to affect the future of us all. Besides health and dental issues, overweight children are physically less comfortable and may be socially less confident. How will they blossom into smart, thinking adults of the future if they are hampered so early on in life? If they are not eating the foods which will give them energy, how will they concentrate at school? Life may be busy, but it’s still important to ensure our children, and everyone, are properly fed.
This post was written in collaboration with BMI Healthcare.