1 in 5 kids starts school overweight according to Panorama documentary

by admin on January 27, 2010

It was with great interest that I saw this week’s Panorama programme on “What’s Really in Our Kids’ Food?”I have always tried hard to make sure my daughter has a balanced diet and lots of fruit and vegetables. She never has anything deep fat fried and at the age of two very rarely has chocolate or biscuits (never sweets). I generally cook her food from scratch.

When my daughter was born she weighed 2.2kg and didn’t even make it onto the growth charts. I was immediately encouraged to feed her as much as possible and her weight stabilised quickly. When she was 18 months old I took her to the clinic to get weighed, to find she was on the 75th centile. I was grilled by the health visitor about what she was eating and it made me feel like a terrible mother. I was told to cut down her milk and not give her so much fruit. The end result – I became paranoid. The minute she started running around the weight dropped off anyway.

Getting an early start to healthy eating is something drilled into us everyday in the magazines we read, TV programmes we watch etc. The Government’s latest Start For Life campaign has a big focus on early years. We are told that it’s important to have a high fibre, low fat diet, but too much fibre and not enough fat in young children can lead to stunted growth. It is enough to make any parent that cares about what their child eats panic!

Daily Allowances for 1-3 year olds

  • Average calories – 1000
  • Salt – 2g per day
  • Sugar – there is no RDA for sugar, although 10% of total calories should be coming from sugar. 4-6 year olds should have about 40g per day = 10 teaspoons. So far I haven’t found any information on the internet for what 1-3 year olds should have – I assume it’s less.

To summarise what the programme said: (To watch it click here)

  • Birth to 5 is a crucial period in child’s growth, but nutritionists say they’re the forgotten years.
  • Children should be eating 3 full meals and two snacks – instead of chocolate and biscuits etc – they recommend fruit.
  • The Government says we shouldn’t add salt to children’s food.
  • Research shows Many pre-schoolers aren’t getting balanced diet they need – Too much sugar and salt, not enough protein or fat.
  • Under 5’s eat twice as much sugar as they should.
  • Parents rarely cook, in fact 2/3 of mums have never cooked their children a meal from scratch.
  • Toddlers are eating fast food
  • The Government says children don’t need growing up milk. They should get everything they need from full fat milk and a balance diet.
  • Nurseries struggling to dish up the right food, there is no regulation as to what they can serve up.
  • Research suggested kids who are fat at 5, likely to stay that way. In fact, evidence shows weight gain can start in children as young as 2.
  • Forecast is that 1 in 5 children will be obese by the time they start school, unless they have a better diet. Are we storing up disaster in years to come?

Interesting stats

  • If you ate one Petit Filous a day, you would be consuming more than two kilos of sugar in a year
  • 40% of kids drinks contain added sugar
  • Fruit flakes – 16g sugar
  • Fruit shoot – 23g sugar – 5tsp. The low sugar – 2.4g – however the programme never mentioned they contain sweetener such as aspartame, which are also bad for you.
  • There is more sugar in a Farley’s rusk than in a chocolate biscuit

TIP: Foods and drinks with less than 2g per 100g of sugars is considered low in sugar, while any with more than 10g is high.

Kids Ready Meals

Beef Lasagne

 

There is no nutritional information on the front of kids ready meals. According to the programme there is no law for children’s food to carry food labelling.

Annabel Karmel got a hammering about her ready meals. I felt sorry for her as no other kids ready meal brands were featured. Interestingly, however, her Fussy Eaters Lasagne contains sugar – and twice as much sugar as a supermarket lasagne, although she did say they are taking the sugar out of their meals. It also contains 1g of salt which is half of a 1-3 yer olds daily salt allowance. In fact 6 out of 8 Annabel Karmel meals contain more recommended 3rd of daily allowance. She feels if no salt, sugar, children wouldn’t eat them – I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Apparently you might as well buy Tescos Finest Lasagne as it works out way cheaper. However, I’m sure  there are a lot worse things children can eat!

(Here’s Annabel Karmel’s response to the programme on You Tube)

Questions and issues raised

  • What is considered as overweight???
  • How much sugar should they have exactly?
  • What about other brands of kids ready meals?
  • The programme said go for low sugar drinks, but didn’t say children should avoid drinks including sweeteners such as Aspartame, which are bad for you.
  • No practical advice – the programme was quick to criticise what children were eating, but offered few healthy alternatives.
  • The advice was to give children more fruit. However fruit contains a lot of sugar too.
  • I’d be very interested to know who were those polled? And what demographics are they getting theirs stats from?
  • Why does children’s food not have to adhere to same guidelines as adults?
  • Why is there no regulation of food in nurseries (as there is in primary schools) and no plans to introduce it either?
  • Should we be calorie counting or measuring how much salt/sugar children are eating. Isn’t more about common sense and taking a healthy approach?

Overall thoughts

I felt the programme was somewhat scare-mongering and patronising. It implied that if your child sometimes has fishfingers, a kids ready meals or a little tomato ketchup they were not getting a balanced diet. However, I’m sure that’s not the reason children are becoming increasingly overweight. I have a feeling that most of the parents participating in the programme as well as the viewers were possibly not the parents it was talking about!

Are we storing up disaster in years to come as the programme suggested? Possibly. However all the mums I know try to give their children a balanced diet, none of my daughter’s friends are overweight and nor are the children I see on the street. Does this mean I am extremely naïve as to the situation in the rest of the UK, for these stats to be true?

Lessons I did learn

  • Not to always believe the claims food companies make. For example, there is no evidence that Good night milk helps children sleep, despite their claims.
  • You are made to believe kids ready meals, snacks etc are made just for children, and you pay a premium for them.
  • I will make sure I look more closely at the nutritional information on ready meals, perhaps they are not as good as they make out to be.
  • Don’t add salt or sugar to her diet (sometimes she eats something I have cooked for my husband and I, but I will leave out the salt.
  • I know the food in my daughter’s nursery is organic and healthy, however it’s important for it to be balanced too. I will check with her nursery.
  • Not give her fruit flakes – I had no idea the amount of sugar they contain!

This is a really interesting subject. Do you give your child a balanced diet?

{ 30 comments }

Beth January 30, 2010 at 11:00 am

As someone who has been overweight from a young age, and it is not my Mother’s fault, I’m scared that my children will have to put up with it aswell.

I have a younger brother who ate exactly the same as me growing up.. I’m 5′ 7 and 8st overweight… my brother is 6′ 5 and within his ‘normal’ limits.
My mother prepared most of our food from scratch and I’m aiming to do the same with mine.

My son is four, and a fussy eater.. but I can honestly say I try my best to get him to eat a balanced diet. He’s considered ‘underweight’ by the ‘proper charts’. But he isn’t unhealthy.
I stopped getting him weighed early, because every time I went there I was told he was ‘too thin’ or his ‘head is too small’. I knew my own child.

Sorry, I got lost then.., back on topic…

I don’t think the parents can be blamed for overweight children in 100% of cases… it isn’t as black and white as that.

Beth

21stcenturymum February 2, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Hi Beth, I think you’re right that it’s not always the parents, and it must be hard when it isn’t to do with over-eating etc.

I’m not sure what’s harder, a child who is fussy eater (as many of my friends’ kids are) or a child who has an enormous appetite that always seems hungry (like mine). It actually drives me mad as she is always pestering me for food. If my husband or I am eating she always wants some, and she has a clever knack of spotting things I’ve hidden away from her. I’m usually having to distract her or give her healthy snacks like cucumber, fruit, rice crackers etc.

So many of my friends say they think it’s great that my 2 year old has a good appetite, however it’s really hard as she is continuously wanting food/snacks etc and I do monitor what she eats – she would happily eat 3 full meals a day and still snack non-stop. I actually do worry about what it will be like when she’s older.

Beth January 30, 2010 at 11:00 am

As someone who has been overweight from a young age, and it is not my Mother’s fault, I’m scared that my children will have to put up with it aswell.

I have a younger brother who ate exactly the same as me growing up.. I’m 5′ 7 and 8st overweight… my brother is 6′ 5 and within his ‘normal’ limits.
My mother prepared most of our food from scratch and I’m aiming to do the same with mine.

My son is four, and a fussy eater.. but I can honestly say I try my best to get him to eat a balanced diet. He’s considered ‘underweight’ by the ‘proper charts’. But he isn’t unhealthy.
I stopped getting him weighed early, because every time I went there I was told he was ‘too thin’ or his ‘head is too small’. I knew my own child.

Sorry, I got lost then.., back on topic…

I don’t think the parents can be blamed for overweight children in 100% of cases… it isn’t as black and white as that.

Beth

21stcenturymum February 2, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Hi Beth, I think you’re right that it’s not always the parents, and it must be hard when it isn’t to do with over-eating etc.

I’m not sure what’s harder, a child who is fussy eater (as many of my friends’ kids are) or a child who has an enormous appetite that always seems hungry (like mine). It actually drives me mad as she is always pestering me for food. If my husband or I am eating she always wants some, and she has a clever knack of spotting things I’ve hidden away from her. I’m usually having to distract her or give her healthy snacks like cucumber, fruit, rice crackers etc.

So many of my friends say they think it’s great that my 2 year old has a good appetite, however it’s really hard as she is continuously wanting food/snacks etc and I do monitor what she eats – she would happily eat 3 full meals a day and still snack non-stop. I actually do worry about what it will be like when she’s older.

scribblingmum January 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Thanks for this and for summarising so well the topics discussed. I am of the ‘common sense’ and ‘everything in moderation’ camp. Sure, I could do better, but one thing I am sure about is that we teach the kids to enjoy food, the experience of eating, understanding where it comes from and will do everything in my control to make sure that they do not have food hang ups or issues.

scribblingmum January 30, 2010 at 4:22 pm

Thanks for this and for summarising so well the topics discussed. I am of the ‘common sense’ and ‘everything in moderation’ camp. Sure, I could do better, but one thing I am sure about is that we teach the kids to enjoy food, the experience of eating, understanding where it comes from and will do everything in my control to make sure that they do not have food hang ups or issues.

Plummy Mummy January 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I saw the programme and was interested in the information given about salt etc as I don’t think that sort of info is readily available. Why don’t health visitors give it out in a leaflet with all the other bumpf you get from them.
I have a few reactions to this show:

1) Cooking from scratch is great but if you don’t know about nutrition, you can easily create a meal that is not very good for the child. It’s easy to boil all the vitamins out of veg, to undercook meat or fish, to give too much of one type of food. I cook from scratch but I’m a vegetarian who has decided to raise her child to eat meat. Having never cooked meat, I don’t risk it and use ready meals for those portions of her meal.

2) I don’t think parents should feel castigated for using ready meals. I am a stay at home mum but I feel very sorry for parents who work. I know how awful if feels when you cook from scratch and the child refuses the meal. But I have time to cook something else, whereas those working parents may not. I think that many of them want to provide the best for their child. Some may not have a choice about going to work etc. The blame should lie with the producers of these unhealthy foods. Annabel Karmel is adored by many parents and therefore has a responsibility. Her meals have too much salt – remove them. I manage to cook edible meals without salt so I don’t agree with her argument that children will not eat the meals without salt.

3) A balanced diet but a balanced life too. Totally agree with all things in moderation. My child is allowed chocolate, crisps and even occassionally some cake. We have the TV on but often she ignores it and just plays. She looks up when music plays on the screen and I’m happy to say we use it as a tool to teach her many things.

21stcenturymum February 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Thanks for your great comments. I absolutely agree the health information should be readily available. The programme did say in a very patronising manner that “educated” parents should know how much salt etc a child should have. I think most people know too much salt is bad for you, but I don’t how many know exactly how much children should have (I didn’t)!

I think it’s okay to use shop-bought ready meals occasionally but not all the time. The best meals are the ones prepared from scratch – and despite being someone that HATES cooking, even I can follow a recipe. Annabel Karmel recipe books are brilliant, many (although not all) of the recipes are easy to prepare and cook! If you’re a working parent then batch cooking is a great solution ie make a giant cottage pie/fish pie etc and freeze it in portions, so you have your own ready meals.

Plummy Mummy January 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I saw the programme and was interested in the information given about salt etc as I don’t think that sort of info is readily available. Why don’t health visitors give it out in a leaflet with all the other bumpf you get from them.
I have a few reactions to this show:

1) Cooking from scratch is great but if you don’t know about nutrition, you can easily create a meal that is not very good for the child. It’s easy to boil all the vitamins out of veg, to undercook meat or fish, to give too much of one type of food. I cook from scratch but I’m a vegetarian who has decided to raise her child to eat meat. Having never cooked meat, I don’t risk it and use ready meals for those portions of her meal.

2) I don’t think parents should feel castigated for using ready meals. I am a stay at home mum but I feel very sorry for parents who work. I know how awful if feels when you cook from scratch and the child refuses the meal. But I have time to cook something else, whereas those working parents may not. I think that many of them want to provide the best for their child. Some may not have a choice about going to work etc. The blame should lie with the producers of these unhealthy foods. Annabel Karmel is adored by many parents and therefore has a responsibility. Her meals have too much salt – remove them. I manage to cook edible meals without salt so I don’t agree with her argument that children will not eat the meals without salt.

3) A balanced diet but a balanced life too. Totally agree with all things in moderation. My child is allowed chocolate, crisps and even occassionally some cake. We have the TV on but often she ignores it and just plays. She looks up when music plays on the screen and I’m happy to say we use it as a tool to teach her many things.

21stcenturymum February 1, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Thanks for your great comments. I absolutely agree the health information should be readily available. The programme did say in a very patronising manner that “educated” parents should know how much salt etc a child should have. I think most people know too much salt is bad for you, but I don’t how many know exactly how much children should have (I didn’t)!

I think it’s okay to use shop-bought ready meals occasionally but not all the time. The best meals are the ones prepared from scratch – and despite being someone that HATES cooking, even I can follow a recipe. Annabel Karmel recipe books are brilliant, many (although not all) of the recipes are easy to prepare and cook! If you’re a working parent then batch cooking is a great solution ie make a giant cottage pie/fish pie etc and freeze it in portions, so you have your own ready meals.

Slummy Single Mummy January 31, 2010 at 9:06 pm

2/3 of mums have never cooked their child a meal from scratch??!!! Seriously?? That is a shocking statictic. I hate cooking but even I can chuck together a spag bol without using a jar of sauce.

21stcenturymum February 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I’m not sure where they get that statistic from. I wondered who they polled?

Slummy Single Mummy January 31, 2010 at 9:06 pm

2/3 of mums have never cooked their child a meal from scratch??!!! Seriously?? That is a shocking statictic. I hate cooking but even I can chuck together a spag bol without using a jar of sauce.

21stcenturymum February 1, 2010 at 1:32 pm

I’m not sure where they get that statistic from. I wondered who they polled?

bumbling February 2, 2010 at 9:28 am

Annabel Karmel did a response to the programme on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZC1WKCkcQA) where she states that all of the salt in the lasagne was from the cheese, which I can believe. Doesn’t excuse the sugar though…

I used jars for much of Moo’s weaning – she just didn’t like my purees! But now she’s on toddler food, I cook most of it from scratch. But if we’re out for lunch or at friends, I don’t think twice about giving her food from my plate, which must have salt added. I know salt is important, but I just don’t think it is as important as generally good nutrition.

I was really interested to see that we’re getting a bit too obsessed about the 5 a day, to the exclusion of other nutrition. Babies/toddlers *need* protein and fat – otherwise they just don’t have the energy to get through the day.

I’m with scribblingmum – common sense is the best thing. And being a good influence – having Moo has made me eat better (or at least hide my junk food eating!) and that way, if it’s ok for me to eat, it’s ok for her to have a bit.

21stcenturymum February 2, 2010 at 9:47 am

I do think people are getting a bit obsessed with the salt issue. It’s obviously not good for you, but I do the same as you if we’re out and about. It’s all about moderation.

bumbling February 2, 2010 at 9:28 am

Annabel Karmel did a response to the programme on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZC1WKCkcQA) where she states that all of the salt in the lasagne was from the cheese, which I can believe. Doesn’t excuse the sugar though…

I used jars for much of Moo’s weaning – she just didn’t like my purees! But now she’s on toddler food, I cook most of it from scratch. But if we’re out for lunch or at friends, I don’t think twice about giving her food from my plate, which must have salt added. I know salt is important, but I just don’t think it is as important as generally good nutrition.

I was really interested to see that we’re getting a bit too obsessed about the 5 a day, to the exclusion of other nutrition. Babies/toddlers *need* protein and fat – otherwise they just don’t have the energy to get through the day.

I’m with scribblingmum – common sense is the best thing. And being a good influence – having Moo has made me eat better (or at least hide my junk food eating!) and that way, if it’s ok for me to eat, it’s ok for her to have a bit.

21stcenturymum February 2, 2010 at 9:47 am

I do think people are getting a bit obsessed with the salt issue. It’s obviously not good for you, but I do the same as you if we’re out and about. It’s all about moderation.

bumbling February 2, 2010 at 9:28 am

PS – sorry for the long comment, and thanks for the fab summary of the programme – I will be referring back to this in future!

bumbling February 2, 2010 at 9:28 am

PS – sorry for the long comment, and thanks for the fab summary of the programme – I will be referring back to this in future!

Mummy Zen February 2, 2010 at 9:43 am

I didn’t see the programme so it’s really helpful to read your summary and thoughts. It’s an important issue and some of the advice out there is conflicting and confusing for new mums. I try to give my son a balanced diet and avoid salt and sugar but I think there’s a danger in making mums worry too much about what they’re doing. In most cases, we’re all doing our best and I guess we just need tobe extra aware of checking the nutritional info on ready-meals to ensure we’re not being fooled by false marketing. Thanks for an interesting post!

Mummy Zen February 2, 2010 at 9:43 am

I didn’t see the programme so it’s really helpful to read your summary and thoughts. It’s an important issue and some of the advice out there is conflicting and confusing for new mums. I try to give my son a balanced diet and avoid salt and sugar but I think there’s a danger in making mums worry too much about what they’re doing. In most cases, we’re all doing our best and I guess we just need tobe extra aware of checking the nutritional info on ready-meals to ensure we’re not being fooled by false marketing. Thanks for an interesting post!

Annabel Karmel February 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Thank you very much for all your feedback. I really do appreciate it and we are taking your comments on board.

We want to reassure our customers that we care very much about what Mums feed their children.

We will be making important and positive changes to the range and we are looking at reducing the salt levels of Eat Fussy meals. However, you can rest assured that current salt levels are well within strict nutritional guidelines for toddlers and we use the highest-quality, additive-free ingredients. We have already redeveloped Eat Fussy recipes by replacing the small amount of sugar with fruit juice.

You can be part of our survey group to test these reduced salt meals. Do you have a child age 1 to 4 years old? If yes, please email site@annabelkarmel.com with your full contact details and my team will give you more information about this.

Thanks again,

Annabel xx

21stcenturymum February 3, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Hi Annabel

Thanks for your comments. The changes you are making sound very positive.

I love your recipe books and my daughter enjoys eating the recipes I make, however I never add salt and the food still tastes great! I don’t make any of the recipes that require added sugar – perhaps I will when my 2 year old is a older.

Would you also consider putting nutritional information on the front of your packaging, as on adult foods? It would be really helpful/useful for us parents!

Annabel Karmel February 3, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Thank you very much for all your feedback. I really do appreciate it and we are taking your comments on board.

We want to reassure our customers that we care very much about what Mums feed their children.

We will be making important and positive changes to the range and we are looking at reducing the salt levels of Eat Fussy meals. However, you can rest assured that current salt levels are well within strict nutritional guidelines for toddlers and we use the highest-quality, additive-free ingredients. We have already redeveloped Eat Fussy recipes by replacing the small amount of sugar with fruit juice.

You can be part of our survey group to test these reduced salt meals. Do you have a child age 1 to 4 years old? If yes, please email site@annabelkarmel.com with your full contact details and my team will give you more information about this.

Thanks again,

Annabel xx

21stcenturymum February 3, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Hi Annabel

Thanks for your comments. The changes you are making sound very positive.

I love your recipe books and my daughter enjoys eating the recipes I make, however I never add salt and the food still tastes great! I don’t make any of the recipes that require added sugar – perhaps I will when my 2 year old is a older.

Would you also consider putting nutritional information on the front of your packaging, as on adult foods? It would be really helpful/useful for us parents!

Wendy February 3, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Very interesting summary of the programme, thank you.

I have just sent an email to the one contained in AK’s post, to be considered as part of a survey group, as I gave my children a ready meal for the first time this evening with amusing results.
Having tried all aproaches to encourage my children to eat healthily, virtually always providing a meal cooked from scratch, after 6 years I discover that all I ever needed to say was ” well if you won’t eat mummy’s cooking when she gone to all this trouble, I will start buying food which comes in a packet”!……..would be interesting to see whether AK food fares more favourably with such young critics.

21stcenturymum February 4, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I did too. My 2 yr old likes Annabel Karmel meals. It would be interesting to see what the new recipes are going to taste like.

Wendy February 3, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Very interesting summary of the programme, thank you.

I have just sent an email to the one contained in AK’s post, to be considered as part of a survey group, as I gave my children a ready meal for the first time this evening with amusing results.
Having tried all aproaches to encourage my children to eat healthily, virtually always providing a meal cooked from scratch, after 6 years I discover that all I ever needed to say was ” well if you won’t eat mummy’s cooking when she gone to all this trouble, I will start buying food which comes in a packet”!……..would be interesting to see whether AK food fares more favourably with such young critics.

21stcenturymum February 4, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I did too. My 2 yr old likes Annabel Karmel meals. It would be interesting to see what the new recipes are going to taste like.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: