Childhood Obesity Strategy: Chapter 2

The tumultuous wranglings of the British political system paired with recent high-profile events has had me on pause, but I’m hopeful that some form of normality will return soon. The big news is that Her Majesty’s Government has released chapter 2 of the Childhood Obesity Strategy. The Prime Minister opens with the sad truth:

“The health and well-being of our children critically determines their opportunities in life. Today, nothing threatens that more than childhood obesity.”

The last strategy paper was a huge disappointment. I wrote about it almost exactly two years ago here. It simply didn’t go far enough and it lacked true accountability.

Jamie Oliver has given his views of Chapter 2 and we’re all feeling a lot more optimistic this time:

“I feel it’s really important to credit this much more holistic, multi-pronged, clearer and more convincing childhood obesity strategy. It’s not perfect, but it is underpinned by a big bold target to halve childhood obesity by 2030, and I fully support this in every way. It’s a vast improvement from the first and fills me with a sense of hope.”

You can read the rest of his statement here.

So what does Chapter 2 say?

The headline is a new national ambition to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030. It’s a big statement that’s going to require the aligning of many many ducks in order to see fruition. It’s more than possible if we get our S.H.1.t together as a modern society.

It’s heartening to read that there’s recognition of how ambitious we really need to be given the current circumstances. How big is the problem? Well, the estimate from the Government is that obesity-related conditions are currently costing the NHS £6.1 billion each year…

The specific points are summarised here:

1. Sugar reduction – The sugar tax (Soft Drinks Industry Levy) has had a great impact so far, with many big companies reformulating their products. There’s a commitment to review additional products such as milk drinks if insufficient progress is made. There will also be consultation on the intention to introduce legislation ending the sale of energy drinks to children. #NotForChildren

2. Calorie reduction – Overall, children are consuming too many calories, so a calorie reduction programme has been introduced to challenge companies to hit a 20% reduction across the board. This has a significant focus on labelling.

3. Advertising and promotions – To reduce the impact of marketing products that are high in fat, sugar and salt, consultation will begin on the introduction of a 9pm watershed on junk food TV advertising. Work is also underway to review price promotions on unhealthy products. #AdEnough

4. Local areas – There are plans to develop a new programme with local authority partners to show what can be achieved within existing powers and understand “what works” in different communities.

5. Schools – A significant update to the School Food Standards to reduce sugar consumption, including detailed guidance to caterers and schools to prepare them for the changes. Additionally, consultation is underway to review the nutrition standards in the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services.

The full document from the UK Government can be read here.

What’s next?

As you can imagine, there’s now going to be a (long) consultation processes to look into all the details – this can be read as a big risk to the strategy and its momentum, or an opportunity for industry to show their customers what they can do for the greater good.

I’m just hoping that we don’t have another backtrack due to changes at the top..

One thing is for certain: we’re not taking our foot off the pedal – we’ve never been so serious or determined, and it’s time to ramp up the campaigning to get us over the line. Anything is possible and it’s our responsibility to make a difference – not only for the wellbeing of our future generations, but also our precious NHS and ultimately the example we can set for the rest of mankind around the world.

Curing Egg Yolks

Sounds crazy right? Fear not, it’s remarkably simple and insanely delicious. In just 4 days you can transform an egg yolk into an umami-heavy delight with the characteristics and texture of Parmesan cheese.

The story starts as always with the freshest, highest quality ingredients you can afford. I normally use medium-size local organic free-range eggs.

Decide how many eggs you’d like to cure and select a dish or tupperware container large enough to house them comfortably without them touching each other. You’ll then need enough salt and sugar to bury them completely.

Separate your eggs and either freeze your whites (albumen) for later use, or make some meringues, omelettes or something useful.

Make yourself a curing mix by combining equal quantities of salt and sugar.  You may want to add in some other flavourings to jazz it up a bit: peppercorns, seaweed, mace, chilli flakes, cloves – whatever takes your fancy.

Put at least a 1cm of the mix in the bottom of your container, use the back of a spoon to make a little indentation for each yolk to sit in, place them in and then cover them all up with the rest of your curing mix.

egg yolk ready to be cured

Pop the lid on or cover your dish with cling film before putting them to bed in your fridge for 4 days.

Carefully remove the yolks and then rinse off any excess cure that sticking to them.

cured egg yolks ready to be rinsed

Next you’ll need to dry them out completely by placing them on a wire rack in a very low oven (50°C) for an hour or two.

drying cured egg yolks in a low oven

Your cured yolks will live happily in a container in the fridge for up to a month.

cured egg yolks

How to use them? Just finely grate them in the same way that you would use Parmesan cheese on pasta, asparagus, whatever you’d like. I just love it over buttered sourdough toast.

cured egg yolk on buttered sourdough

Tarta de Santiago

The cake of Saint James – a medieval masterpiece that pairs perfectly with a mid-morning cortado coffee.

Its exact origins and specific recipe are long gone in the winds of time, but the celebration of the patron saint of Spain continues, especially on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage and in the Galician capital Santiago de Compostela.

I’m not a huge fan of cakes or even baking them, but this simple gluten-free almond recipe has me hooked. It feels a touch more, grown-up.  I’ve spent a while experimenting and have finally settled on this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 250g ground almonds
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • zest of 1 unwaxed orange
  • zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • icing sugar to dust

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 160°C (140°C fan)
  2. Grease and line an 8 or 9-inch springform baking tin.
  3. Separate the egg yolks and whites.
  4. Whisk the yolks with the golden caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
  5. Mix in the almonds, zest and extract.
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  7. Gently combine the two mixtures and fill your baking tin.
  8. Bake for about 40-45 minutes.
  9. Rest the cake in its tin for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

cooling down the tarta de santiago10. When completely cool, dust the top of the cake using icing sugar and a stencil of the cross of Saint James.

youngling dusting the tarta de santiago

Serve with a little crème fraîche if you like. I certainly do.

Hummus

This Levantine staple fascinates me as children just can’t seem get enough of it. I’ve met very few younglings that would reject a tub of hummus and crudités – but where does that desire stem from? 

Without doubt it’s most certainly delicious and comforting, but would you expect the same reaction from “hey kids, fancy some chickpea purée?”

Does the foreign sounding name (from the Arabic word for chickpeas) make it more accessible to young minds? Perhaps their former years of puréed baby food developed an unconscious affinity for its texture and appearance? I’ve not come to any conclusions yet, but, in some ways, who cares! Is this the perfect vehicle for delivering nutritious goodness and raw vegetables or what?!?  Hummus is packed with fibre, protein and vitamins. It’s also vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free and vegan. Clever little legume. 

It’s ubiquitous in the supermarkets here in the UK, but also remarkably quick, cheap and simple to make at home. You can literally knock hummus up from store cupboard ingredients in a matter of minutes. Beat that.  

Here’s a classic, simple and foolproof recipe for plain hummus.  

Ingredients:

  • 1 tin chickpeas (400g), rinsed & drained
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • ½ garlic clove
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • juice of ½ lemon

Method: 

  1. Reserve a few chickpeas for garnish.
  2. Pop the rest of the chickpeas in a food processor with the tahini, garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon juice.
  3. Blitz the mixture and add a splash of water if it’s too thick.
  4. Give it a taste and carefully adjust with lemon juice and salt until you’re happy with the balance of flavours.

Of course, you can flavour hummus with all sorts of lovely ingredients: beetroot, roasted onion, paprika, edamame and wasabi, roasted red peppers – the list goes on and on. Given the current season, I’ve recently foraged some wild garlic (Ramsons) from here in the Cotswolds to give it a subtle twist. 

Here’s a link to my Harissa Hummus recipe:  https://foodfitforfelix.com/2016/06/22/harissa-houmous/

.. and there are more ideas over on Jamie’s page thanks to our lovely ambassadors: 

https://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/10-twists-simple-houmous/ 

What about dried chickpeas? Is it worth the effort? It must be right? 

garbanzo beans

Dried chickpeas require a little time and love as you can’t eat them raw – they must be soaked overnight in cold water and then simmered for about an hour until tender. The benefit is that they’re even cheaper than the canned variety and you can control the texture by cooking them yourself. Note that they will triple in size once they’re rehydrated.  

To serve, I like to sprinkle over a little spice (paprika, cumin or sumac) and drizzle with a good quality olive oil. Delicious with flatbreads, toasted pitta or breadsticks, freshly cut vegetables such as peppers, cucumber, radish, celery – the choice is yours.

houmous

Hummus will keep for a good few days covered in the fridge.

#AdEnough

Our children are bombarded with junk food advertising from every angle. Fact. On TV, public transport, at street level and online. It’s big business because it works, and it’s fuelling the childhood obesity crisis. We have to speak up and call for change, and Jamie Oliver is doing exactly that with the launch of the #AdEnough campaign.

The Food Revolution is rallying support from followers around the globe to make as much noise as possible in the hope that the government will take meaningful action to safeguard our future generations.

The more I’ve looked into it, the more frightening the bigger picture is. We’re talking about the marketing of food and drink products that are high in unhealthy fats, salt and sugar, to our impressionable younglings. The impact on their health is clear to see, and I’m not ok with that. I for one have #AdEnough

HMG’s Childhood Obesity Strategy aims to make a real difference through an array of interventions and recommendations, but junk food advertising is undermining all of the great work which is being done in schools, homes and communities. It’s time to make a stand. Let’s make one thing clear though, this campaign isn’t aimed at stopping big brands from marketing and advertising their products, it’s about safeguarding children so that they’re not being directly targeted with unhealthy products. It’s about controlling the time and place.

“If kids are constantly being targeted with cheap, easily accessible, unhealthy junk food, just think how hard it must be to make better, healthier choices. We have to make it easier for children to make good decisions.”

And what about the parents? Many people have asked “Isn’t it down to parents to look after their kids, not brands?” – the answer is a resounding yes, but as a parent, I know first hand how difficult it is to maintain the balance and avoid being the bad-guy, repeatedly trying to explain why it’s not a good idea to consume empty calories and unhealthy food, regardless of how tempting and enticing they may look in all their  technicolour falsity. Give us a break! We just want an easy life; there’s more than enough natural risks to worry about in life without the man-made ones conspiring against our precious offspring.

come on guys, give it a rest

Given that the ONLY way our children can avoid this onslaught of obesity-laced advertising it to literally cover their eyes, we’re calling on everyone to post selfies across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram doing just that. Get involved and use the #AdEnough hashtag to show your support for the safeguarding of our children.

We’re reaching out across the globe for this campaign as social media brings with it international influence and the opportunities for other countries to see what a difference the people can make, and follow suit.

I for one have #adenough

#adenough campaign

For further information please head over to Jamie Oliver’s page: https://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/weve-adenough-of-junk-food-marketing/