Katie Bulmer-Cooke: Child obesity is a big problem

Joe Wicks, centre, cooking with students.
Joe Wicks, centre, cooking with students.
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I was ecstatic at the end of last week when Public Health England revealed it’s plans to challenge businesses, who sell foods such as biscuits, chocolate bars and cereals, to reduce their sugar content by 20% by 2020.

News like this has been a long time coming, and it’s fantastic to see that this challenge starts now, with food businesses being urged to cut their sugar levels by 5% this year.

It’s a much needed step in a world where our children are expanding in front of our eyes and being overweight is becoming far too normalised.

In the new plans, the food industry will not only be challenged to reduce sugar, but they should also work on reducing portion size and encourage healthier choices.

Portion size is a big issue in my opinion, especially given that many adults and children aren’t as active as we were 20 years ago and therefore don’t have the same opportunities to burn off the extra calories consumed throughout the day.

It’s not rocket science…stick to three meals per day, don’t eat to the point of feeling stuffed, reduce your sugar intake and make a conscious effort to eat more green vegetables.

It really isn’t difficult, but unfortunately clever marketing on the part of the food industry and a lack of physical activity has resulted in bigger waistlines and of course the nasty health issues associated with excess weight.

Whether it’s type 2 diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure, I certainly don’t want to see the younger generation being pre-disposed to these conditions, but the sad reality is that if food quality and content doesn’t improve, these conditions, just like being overweight or obese, will become the norm.

As delighted as I was to hear the news about the sugar cuts, for me the childhood obesity problem in Sunderland or anywhere else in the UK, can’t be fixed by cutting sugar in foods alone. There is a much wider problem, with one of the key factors being what happens at school meal times.

I’m more than aware that school meals have come a long way in recent years, especially on the back of the hard work done by Jamie Oliver, and more recently by Joe Wicks aka The Body Coach, but we are still a long way off nailing it.

I’ve heard some great stories recently of schools who incentivise children to choose vegetables at lunchtime at school by entering their names into a raffle every time they make a healthy choice, and the prize being something cool like a bike or a family weekend away.

It’s the perfect way to get kids thinking about the choices they make and setting down good habits for life.

Here’s hoping that incentives just like this came become a firm fixture in our city’s schools!