How can you improve the state of children’s health?

This week (20-25th January 2022) is sugar awareness week, so our founders Jenna Hope & Yasmin Alexander wanted to give you some insights from a Parliamentary conference they attended this week and some top tips to create a healthier environment for your children.

We have written a previous blog all about sugar, the different names it can be disguised as and the differences between natural and free or added sugars, which you can find here.

In this blog we want to focus on food marketing, food language and how we can try and help improve the health of our children.

The health of today’s children

The Food Foundation have released a trajectory suggesting that 23% of children born last year (2019) will be overweight and obese by the time they start reception, increasing to 34% when they reach year 6, which nearly doubles to 61% by their 21st birthday.

We appreciate that weight is not and should not be a sole indicator of health, so here at the Yoghurt & Juice Network, we are all about education and empowering every child and every family, irrespective of their weight.

As parents, teachers and health professionals, we can all try and help educate and spread the message of healthier eating and living, but a strong theme that came from the Parliamentary panel discussion this week was that “it is no longer just down to individual choice”. 46% of food and drink advertising budgets goes on confectionery, sweet and savoury snacks and soft drinks, while only 2.5% goes on fruits and vegetables. Statistics like this really highlight how much of an impact our food environment plays a role in our children’s health today.

Statistics also show that the health gap between the most deprived families and most affluent families is large, with the most deprived needing the most health improvement. Price promotions ample numbers of fast food outlets and marketing targeted at children has a huge influence.

The way forward

A multi-systems approach is really needed to try and create a healthier environment for our children and adults today. Amsterdam are well ahead of the game, as they ran an initiative back in 2013 which got government, media, schools, supermarkets, businesses and neighbourhoods on board to make the country healthier.

We know that what we are surrounded by has an influence on our choices and behaviours, this was highlighted by The Bite Back 2030 campaign, please watch this video here!

In this country, we need the same to happen, government, media, advertising laws, price strategies, schools, parents and teachers alike need to be spreading the message of health and most of all setting the right examples.

How you can help

So, what can you do today to help create this healthier environment that we need?

  1. Engage with your local MPs. Present some of the data, present what’s currently happening in your children’s schools and they may start to take things more seriously.
  2. Role model – you will be constantly role modelling without even realising it, but if you and the other adults in the family start to engage in healthy behaviours, your children will see and want to follow. This could be:
  • Going for a family walk at the weekend
  • Trying a new fruit or vegetable with the children
  • Get the children to help wash the fruits and vegetables to be used for cooking
  • Drinking water regularly
  1. Create the change. We are aware that at social gatherings and parties there will always be celebratory foods such as cakes and sweets, but you could try and bring something healthier into the mix, to influence others and offer a healthy choice. You could try making some oat muffins, fruit kebabs, banana sushi or veggie pinwheels and take them with you.
  1. Change the language. We all have a relationship with food, whether we are aware of it or not. Our best piece of advice is to try and minimise the use of language such as ‘treat’ or ‘reward’ around your children when it comes to food. They will start to view these foods high in sugar and fat as superior to other foods such as fruit and veg. Creating non-food rewards is a great alternative. Such as an extra story in bed, a new toy or some quality time with a family member.
  1. Engage with initiatives. The Veg Power campaign launched last year, which partnered with ITV, and was incredible at engaging children with eating more vegetables. They have a campaign running again this year in Feb – so look out for it.
  1. Join our community at The Yoghurt & Juice Network Live – we have just launched our new online platform, through Patreon, where you are able to access our weekly educational videos, recipes videos, resources and join the Facebook community. We want you to play the videos and create the recipes with your children at home, so this is another great way of getting children involved and excited about food. Check it out here– we’d love to see you in the network!