When we were younger, we never had to give a second’s thought to our weight – we were always outdoors, running around and portions were far smaller. As for sugar, sweets and chocolate, these were a rare treat! Unfortunately, today’s children face a tougher challenge. The rise of cheaper, unhealthy foods and the obsession with staying in, surfing the internet has meant they are tempted to eat more and go outside less.
A recent study has shown that in the UK, one in ten young people are now classed as obese. Globally, this means 124m boys and girls are obese. This worrying figure is set to increase, meaning the amount of people with obesity will be more than those who are underweight for the first time ever. What a shame it is they have to be thinking about their diets rather than just enjoying themselves in the playground.
The research showed that children as young as five are, in recent years, gaining unhealthy amounts of weight. Data from Imperial College London shows in 1975 there were five million obese girls and six million boys. Now, these figures have risen to 50 million obese girls and 75 million obese boys.
Obese children are very likely to become obese adults say health experts, putting them at risk of developing serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and are at higher risk of having a stroke in the future.
The biggest increases in obesity have been in countries situated in South Asia. As the economies in these countries have grown, trends in obesity have changed. Where before, the richer in society were obese, whilst the poor were underweight, the growth of these economies has shown the rich are opting for more healthy lifestyle options where the poor can now afford cheap, unhealthy food.
Many experts have blamed the government for the problem claiming that parents are struggling to be able to afford healthier food when calorific food is so readily available and cheap. Similarly, there has been criticism of the lack of physical activity programmes which are available to children at an affordable price.
Although attempts have been made to resolve this problem, such as increasing taxes on sugary foods, this is obviously not producing the results it had set out to do. Experts believe the answer is to educate parents but to also improve physical activity and food in schools, in an effort to improve the problem for future generations.
What today’s children eat
A typical school lunch would be margarita pizza, potato croquettes, coleslaw and salad for main with butterscotch mousse and banana for pudding. A menu today will most likely have a vegetarian option. It also has to be clearly marked if milk, gluten, soya, fish or egg is contained. Ingredients are normally delivered at the start of the week all ready to heat up. Now, the average family eats out or has a takeaway some three-to-four times per week, meaning the consumption of fatty foods is increasing.
What we ate when we were young
Our school dinners mostly consisted of meat and two veg for main, often a roasted meat with carrots and greens. After would be jam roly-poly, butterscotch tart or treacle sponge with pink custard. Everything was homemade using fresh ingredients. Once we got home from school, we would have a home-cooked dinner to eat, again using fresh ingredients and including the main food groups.
How we stayed active compared to children today
We would play out with our friends before being shouted inside for our dinner. We were constantly active and kept fit and healthy. Nowadays, there are so many distractions indoors, from phones to computers, TV to video games. Young people today often feel like they’re missing out if they’re not indoors!
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