National Food Strategy, an independent review commissioned by the government has proposed imposing tax on sugar and salt and encouraging GPs to prescribe fruit and vegetables to patients.
That’s pretty desperate measures in my view: even if, as projected, the tax affected manufacturers of those cheap and cheerful ultra-processed foods (it would be imposed on wholesale salt and sugar), it would be much easier for them to up the prices ever so slightly rather than seek ways to limit sugar and salt content in their ready meals and snacks. And that’s a punishment for the consumers, not the producers.
The report provides an impressive, at a glance, comparison of how much more 100 kcal worth of broccoli costs compared to sausages and cakes. Which seems to suggest that as soon as broccoli is cheaper than chips, calorie for calorie content, we will all choose to gorge on it all day and ditch the biscuits. Which is nonsense, obviously: we go for crisps rather than nibble on a carrot because it’s more satisfying to our taste buds. Even if it was a prescription carrot!
NFS think the income raised by the tax would pay for school meals – and that is fantastic as long as it pays for educating kids’ eating habits rather than providing pizza with chips on the side to more of them. If they are fed wholesome and nutritious but tasty school dinners, at least part of their diet will improve. I still remember Jamie Oliver’s Rotherham fiasco, but they do it successfully in France, with not much bigger national subsidies than here. Teaching kids to eat healthy, enjoy it and understand why it’s important is tougher than slapping a tax on stuff but it is far more effective.
And getting them to cook is a step in the right direction as more often than not we reach for ready meals because we can’t cook. Get them to cook what they like: pizza, but with fresh ingredients on the base stretched with their little hands. Meatballs made from scratch. Potato salad with lots of crunchy radish and cucumber. Salmon and broccoli bake with creamy topping. Homemade flapjack for treats. Rice cakes, yaki onigiri, for packed lunches.
And if you manage to enthuse your little ones about baking, they’ll be sold on homemade bread and cakes for life. Starting with chocolate cookies and snickerdoodle biscuits, you can engage them in spreading butter over kubaneh rolls dough, and themselves. The Italian yoghurt cake is made with a yoghurt pot as a measuring tool so it’s easy even for preschoolers who can’t read the scales very well.
Cooking at home, eating well at school and knowing why they should do both is really the surest weapon in the war against obesity among children, and once you win them, the future looks all brighter. Stay well and cook with your little ones!