Messages about healthy eating, particularly in children, have strengthened recently – almost in a deliberate attempt to shock.
Words such as obesity and fat are being used a lot, along with warnings that children are eating too much sugar and should avoid foods such as cereals, ice cream and fruit juices.
Of course it is important to encourage healthy eating amongst families and young people but I worry that the message is going in slightly the wrong direction.
We regularly read in the news about how young people – particularly young females – are suffering increasingly with eating disorders. This is often partly blamed on the fact that they are trying to live up to unrealistic body images.
A child who is already stressed about eating too much and getting ‘fat’ is not going to be helped by stories in the news about the evils of foods such as cereals and the occasional ice cream.
Healthy eating campaigning needs to be a more positive message with lots of tips and advice about what good foods we should aim to eat, how we should exercise and try to develop an active lifestyle.
I agree that we need to be aware of how much sugar is in our processed foods, but I think it would be more sensible if we talked about great foods we can eat for breakfast – such as porridge and eggs – rather than putting out the message that if we have a bowl of cereal we are going to become ‘obese’.
So come on health officials and message makers, please remember there are also lots of children out there who are dangerously underweight.