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.

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/

Food Education Review

The results are in, and it doesn’t make for happy reading. An expert group including The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, Food Teachers Centre, British Nutrition Foundation and the University of Sheffield have now completed a commission to undertake a comprehensive review of food education and culture in England’s primary and secondary schools. Thanks to all of you that got involved, filled in surveys and took part.

Jamie Oliver believes that “Every kid in every school no matter their background,
deserves to learn the basics about food – where it comes from, how to cook it and how it affects their bodies. These life skills are as important as reading and writing, but they’ve been lost over the past few generations. We need to bring them back and bring up our kids to be street wise about food.”

Focusing on the curriculum, the whole school approach and behavioural change, the report highlights an alarming disparity in standards, overshadowing the success of the 2013 campaign for compulsory food education.

There’s a stark difference between schools doing a great job at delivering appropriate food education, and others struggling with a lack of time, resources and support. The report also highlights the unhealthy food environment at secondary schools which is in turn compromising pupils’ ability to make good food choices, and interestingly found that teachers, pupils and parents are all calling for a healthier school environment.

The report goes on to make four recommendations to counter these findings and ensure that children receive a better start in life:

  1. Schools should be healthy food zones
  2. More support should be given to the school workforce
  3. Improvements in food education qualifications and resources are needed
  4. Stronger reporting and evaluation needs to be in place

You can read the full report here:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B6vmekGX5OPfTm9xMzc5VkpCUTg

Something that really struck a cord with me as a parent and a change professional was the opinion of Dr ​Caroline ​Hart ​from ​the ​University ​of ​Sheffield – she referenced the environment in schools and concerns about the ‘cake-culture’. I myself have been flabbergasted by the mixed messages around healthier lifestyles, as schools attempt to implement good practice, but unfortunately contradict themselves in their policies around unhealthy snacks, allowing treats for birthdays, and routinely supporting and enabling regular fundraising through the sale of junk food. It’s a tough one, as it’s always hard to change and move away from things which are ‘easy’.  ​

Dr Hart wrote:
“For ​many ​primary ​schools, ​a ​major ​concern ​is ​the ​prolific ​sale ​of ​cakes, ​sweets, ​cookies
and ​crisps ​as ​part ​of ​fundraising ​efforts. ​In ​many ​secondary ​schools, ​a ​key ​issue ​is ​the
lack ​of ​healthy ​food ​offers ​that ​enable ​pupils ​to ​put ​their ​food ​education ​into ​practice.
Pupils ​told ​us ​that, ​when ​sugary ​drinks, ​super-sized ​cookies ​and ​‘chip ​only’ ​options ​are
available, ​it ​made ​it ​hard ​for ​them ​to ​select ​healthier ​alternatives. ​The ​vast ​majority ​of
parents ​responding ​to ​our ​survey ​supported ​the ​reduction ​of ​unhealthy ​food ​offers ​in
school.”

We’re heading in the right direction as momentum builds and media coverage increases, but as a nation trying to overcome rising childhood obesity rates, there’s still a long way to go. I expect that big changes in government policy are on the way as a result (fingers crossed…).

 

Baked Sharing Pancake

What better way to enjoy food than sharing? This dish is a joy-inducing crowd-pleaser and ideal for a lazy weekend brunch with family and friends.

I think that it works best in a cast iron skillet or small oven-proof pan (about 23cm), but a baking tin will suffice if you don’t have one.

This is my twist on Jamie’s One-cup pancakes with blueberries recipe as part of the Food Revolution campaign 2017. Simple, simple recipes that anyone can master, and everyone will love.

gorgeous baked sharing pancakes

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250ml milk
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 20g butter
  • 175g blueberries or raspberries
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • Crème fraîche to serve
  • Icing sugar to dust

Method:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
  2. Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla together in a large bowl.
  3. Sift in the flour and mix to make a batter.
  4. Heat the butter in a 23cm baking tin or pan in the oven. Once melted, carefully swirl it around, pour in the batter and sprinkle over a handful of blueberries or raspberries (about 50g).
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and cooked through.
  6. Whilst the pancake is baking, pop the remaining soft fruit in a small pan with the maple syrup and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently until it turns into a sauce.
  7. Dust the pancake with icing sugar and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and the sauce. Do be careful with the pan – it’ll be hot hot hot.

This is a great way to use up frozen berries (i’m forever popping the last few from the fridge into a freezer bag before they turn).