How do you make food choices for your children? What are the main things that influence your decisions? Has this changed over time?
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I try to avoid visiting McDonalds with my children and other fast food outlets. We visit once a year at the most, twice a year would be a lot. What I find scary is the power of their marketing promotions, that lures children. More education is needed to make children aware that the food industry giants do not have their health at heart, in the quest to make more profit. Courses like MEND, have been instrumental in me making changes to the family diet like switching from white bread and pasta to wholemeal varieties.
Something I am always concerned about is the primary school meals, both the free ones and the paid ones have dessert every lunch. how many of us eat dessert after each lunch and cant these be changed to healthy options or no dessert, some schools do provide fruits and yoghurt as options. the yoghurts are normally the sweet ones and how many children will opt for fruits when they have jelly and chocolate brownies on menu.
also most events at school are always joined with sugary treats, from Harribos to cake sales and christmas/summer fair with more sugary sales. of course there is a discussion on healthy food, the eatwell plate, but the school my daugther goes to was using the old eatwell plate even though the new eatwell plate has been there more than a year. Now how are the teachers being updates on new guidelines. especially the new plate doesnt includes sugary treats as part of the meal. which is a change that the children should be informed and saying no sugary treats should be followed by action. I also believe that parents should be encouraged not to bring in unhealthy food for children when collecting them from school. Adverts play a role, but I find it easier to manage my child with adverts than when other kids are eating cakes etc after school when I take banana. I believe that the school and home shgould be targetted more as thats where children spend most of their time.
Generally children should be used to eating the same meals as you. It's when they are allowed a choice that things get more difficult. My children are now quite old but have always been good at eating home cooked food and thankfully make their own home cooked food now too.
Availability, price and healthyness , weight of food difficult as I cycle home so it's limited what I can carry
what would help - smaller portions everywhere, cheaper more available fresh veg , less junk food , more responsible companies not charging the earth for fruit and veg
school menus are not enough healthy. even those who try to be are far less healthy that the school menus of other countries. Desserts and sweets should be banned from schools and ice cream vans shouldn't be allowed to park in front of schools. Children shouldn't just learn the meaning of the different nutrients but mostly the effects on health of junk food. Seeing the effects on your helth and on your family helth of bad food it's more important that knowing the difference between carbohidrate and proteins. Schools should visit local farms and mostly pick up your own farms. Children should learn about the impact on the environment of buying food that comes from the other side of the planet. They should learn to read the ingredients of what they buy and understand what they mean.
Thanks everyone for sharing your views in this discussion. A few of you have mentioned food available in your children's school.
What do you think of it? How does your child's diet change in the school holiays, if at all?
I avoid food with added sweetener (refined sugar, fructose, aspartame etc) in our everyday life, which then allows me to be relaxed about 'one-offs' when out or at parties.
Ketchup is always avoided as it triggers sugar rushes for my kid.
It is after realising that this sugar rush appears very similar to drug highs that I realised we had to reduce our general intake.
- the only drink acceptable with meals is water, even if eating out. Juices are fine but clearly understood as a treat. Coke is for stomach upsets.
-desserts are fruits, yogurt, a fruit juice. Not cakes, tarts and (sugary) ice cream. These are special dessert for once in a while consumption.
- breakfast is protein +slow release carbs and a fruit. Only way to keep kid on even keel during morning.
Jam for example is not a good breakfast to help through the morning. But offered at so many breakfast clubs! As a result I can't drop my kid off at breakfast club if I want to be sure he has a breakfast that'll keep him functioning at his best.
I try to reduce white carbs as well.
We make our own ice lollies to have the treat without the sugar rush...
I should add that I live be these rules too, I'd never get away with it otherwise!
It’s a my girl always had packed lunch because the veggie option was so dire, and often very very salty. She helped make it, we made it into a game.
I talk with my child about food, ingredients and their impact.
He is three but has understood that sugar isn't good for his 'probiotic helpers' while green beans are, which means that of course he'll have sweet treats but he's rather reasonable about it and make great efforts to have a balanced food intake over time.
it is only if the children understand what is in their food and how it impacts them that they will be willing and able to manage their diet.
But once given the info they are really really good with it.
Schools should not be allowed to offer pastry type desserts on a daily basis.
Children grow up with the habit/expectation of eating like this throughout adulthood, with daily sugary treat a normal thing.
instead they should learn and experience at school that the daily dessert is a yogurt or a fruit. Maybe a fruit juice.
Pastries are for special occasions.
If anything should be offered daily in schools it should be:apple, banana and FERMENTED FOOD!!! Getting kids used to a daily helping of Kimchi, sauerkraut or other pickle would do wonders for taste buds and health!
Maybe schools already do, but all schools, especially those in more deprived areas should have classes in the upper years on nutrition, cooking and the real life impact of food choices (weight, diabetes but also IBS, ability to cope with stress etc)
I am aware of many parents buying snacks for kids just to shut them up, not for nutrition, or hunger. It is more of a pastime. This develops snacking habits that will potentially have adverse health effects.
I am appalled at the number of children going to fried chicken and cheap pizza takeaways on their way home from school, and they seem to do this every day. I would like to see such outlets far away from bus stops and underground stations.
Thanks everyone for sharing your views. Some of you have commented on the food served at schools.
The draft London Food Strategy highlights the proposed policy to restrict new hot food takaways within 400m of schools in the London Plan.
What do you think? Are there too many fast food takeways in your local area, or the right amount? Should there be limits on how close they can be to schools?
The survey mentions fast food outlets close to schools.
I think the strategy should also look at playgrounds-I walk past a central London primary school and its attenant park/playground every day. In summer there is an ice cream van parked (motor running to make things worse) right by the playground gate where so many kids go to play after a long day.
And I see many of the kids succumb.
If at least these vans had refined sugar/artificial sugar free offers...
i agree, wholeheartedly.
Children need to be given taste experiences to broaden their palate. In primary school time should be given within the curiculum to encourage children to eat new and different fresh ingredients. In secondary school the home economics teaching is dreadful and does nothing to give teenagers the life skills of how to cook good quality fresh food. For example my children were asked to bring in gravy granules "because that is how you make gravy". NO!!!!. They refused to allow my son to add herbs and spices to one of his dishes like he would see happen at home, just a crumbled up stock cube. Little things like adding a bit of parsnip when boiling potaotes for mash to give them a bit more flavour. Stir frying cabbage with onion and herbs instead of plain boiled. But it also needs to start in the home. Many years ago parents/adults could go to night classes in cooking using school home economics labs - indeed my sister who was a home economics teacher taught some of these night classes. That encouraged parents to try new foods and make greater use of fresh healthy ingredients to create inexpensive tasty food. That was scrapped years ago. This problem has to be tackled from both ends, children and parents.
Think you have definitely hit the nail on the head here. Education is key at home, in school & on the street.
In France all children in primary school eat a school lunch of three courses with a main, cheese and dessert. The food is fresh, seasonal and healthy with two hours given to eating together and rest. Yes the day is longer but the children have the energy from good food. Perhaps we can still take something from Europe before we leave.
It depends on the purpose. My child is a performance athlete and depending what the energy need is I choose either products which are high in Carbs and protein.
Otherwise I reduce sugar intake to a minimum. I ensure lots of calcium with fresh milk and plenty of vitamins.
I prefer freshly pressed orange juice, and I rather purchase oranges for that purpose rather than already pressed juice.
Normally the drink is water or energy milk drinks, which I also prepare myself.
I purchase as little ready made food as possible. I make everything myself, including bagels, pizza bases, pizza toppings.
I give lots of salads, fruits, vegges.
I prefer to purchase from supermarkets as they have a high turnover on products and its often the fresher.
Fantastic - you could probably teach me a huge amount.
My children are early and late teens. Late teen is now cooking and buying for herself but due to Autism sticks to very predictable food groups and either loves or hates things- hard to get out of comfort zone. I am worried about when at Uni later in the year and even malnutrition now due to own restrictive choices.
2nd child also on spectrum but much earlier diagnosis is turning into a chef, has huge passion for food, provenance, locality & seasonality. Is taking BTEC cookery. However cooking lessons focus a lot on cakes and sweet things - hoping that will change. Attends specialist school so has the option to do cooking. First child attended an academy school where academic subjects are paramount and had a total of 2 cooking classes .... see the difference!
I teach both of them at home, allow them free reign of the kitchen yet this still needs to be supported by outside.
best thing I’ve found this year is Root Camp - we need more initiatives like this.
“Generally children should be used to eating the same meals as you.
It's when they are allowed a choice that things get more difficult.”
Can't be said too often ... except that too many 'grown ups' eat badly through lack of money and not being aware themselves.
Cheap food is normally cheap because it's produced industrially, with little regard for the welfare of the animals or the planet, not to mention the use of prophylactic antibiotics which drive the evolution of drug resistant pathogens faster.
I think that we should educate children about how bodies function, the requirement of nutrients for proper growth, and also the effects of what we eat on our mood and ability to learn and sleep etc. I wish that I'd learned these things in school.
Banning fast food sales near to schools might help, but it does seem rather draconian. Maybe try to educate the parents instead.
Put some more double-red lines, enforced by TfL cameras, outside junk food shops. This will ensure they go out of business as seen across high streets all over London.
"The draft London Food Strategy highlights the proposed policy to restrict new hot food takaways within 400m of schools in the London Plan."
This is ridiculous. London is full of schools, so, at a stroke, this will make many high street shops illegal. We already have high streets full of estate agents, charity shops, coffee stores, and precious little else. Why reduce choice even further because a few irresponsible parents can't walk past a burger shop without taking their children in? People need to take responsibility. I don't like the way we're heading, where Jamie Oliver and Sarah Wollaston dictate what we can eat or drink for our own good.
I would like schools to drop dessert for lunch. It is one of the worst diet mistakes. Children first eat lunch which gives them fat, complex carbs and protein and then immediately you stuff them with simple sugar. What happens is insulin spike - which is not healthy plus their body uses the simple sugars as energy and stores the fat instead of using fat and complex carbs for energy. That is how you create obesity. That must be stopped. What adult eats dessert with their lunch anyway ?
There is policy of free fruit a day at schools. These fruits should be organic. There is scientific evidence that pesticides are harmful to brain development and there has been research commissioned by EU that was checking effect of non-organic fruits and vegs on unborn babies and small children. The results are that it does lower IQ even at the amounts that were earlier considered to be safe:
"The total number of IQ points lost due to these pesticides was estimated to be 13 million per year, representing a value of about € 125 billion , i.e. about 1 % of the EU’s gross domestic product."
In general I buy only organic milk, fruits, veg and eggs. I also always check for sugar content and buy foods that have less simple sugars.
The thing that amazes me, is the number of schools (and scout groups) who talk about healthy eating and then raise money by having cake sales. Schools teach healthy eating, so do hospitals and doctors. But you walk round hospitals and they're full of vending machines - that applies to leisure centres too. So we talk about healthy eating, but the snacks and drinks that are available are bad for us.
Yes, there are too many chicken shops, burgers etc, so why not have a scheme which encourages healthy alternatives, healthy snack shops, fruit and veg shops back into the high streets. Do something about the rents, offer financial incentives to small businesses that provide certain things. This would help rennovate the high streets too.
And let's do something about the quality and appeal of school food. Teenagers are hungry, they're growing. They do want to eat after school. We need to offer them health alternatives either in school canteens or on the way home.
Of course, all this costs money which the government won't hand over and which is getting in shorter supply because of Brexit, so maybe requisition empty shops in London and hand them over to small business people with innovative ideas - cool hangout spaces for teen, cafes etc that offer healthier food. Bring in a by-law to make it harder for landlords to leave properties empty.
I've tried to cook from scratch every day. The loss of high-street shops – greengrocers, butchers, bakers – has sometimes made sourcing fresh ingredients harder. Costs have gone up as has the amount of unnecessary packaging. As long as their main meals are balanced and healthy, I've never been too hung up on snacks and treats. As they've got older, my children's tastes have changed and they have become more adventurous in their eating. I've ensured my children are able to cook for themselves.
Ice cream vans should be banned from school gates.
I think mostly they are already, but there is little or no enforcement. Vans are not supposed to operate from a 'pitch' on the street unless officially approved, which is not always, if ever, the case.