On Friday I saw something that made me head straight for my
keyboard in a fit of rage – a poll on the Guardian website asking if there
should be a watershed for the advertising of unhealthy food, which is
apparently a policy proposed by the Labour party.
To me, this seems to be the absolute apex of years of
hand-wringing about King Ronald and his empire of chubby kids, who’ve never
heard of exercise and couldn’t pick a vegetable out of a line-up. It’s all the
fault of fast food, tarting itself about everywhere, people cry, chugging back
the wheatgrass as they burn Coca Cola in effigy.
|"Um... the one on the left?"|
YES – if you eat too much fast food, you will most probably get
fat, and that has plenty of negative consequences for your health.
YES – children should therefore not be dining in the court
of the Burger King every day, and washing down their (over-sugared) breakfast
cereal with a pint or two of Coke.
YES – if children were kept in herds on grassy farmland
somewhere, eating only raw food and never even dreaming of the existence of
chicken nuggets, they would almost certainly be slimmer.
BUT THAT’S MADNESS. If we build a massive wall topped with
machine-gun towers and barbed wire between the kids and the junk food, how will
we ever teach them about balance in their diets? How can we expect them, once
they move out and start doing their own shopping, to resist eating ice cream
for every meal just because they can? A few kids will have absorbed the
propaganda and will stick nobly to the celery, but most will go on an
unrestrained fresher’s week Dominos bender.
Instead of blaming the fast food companies for plying their
delicious deep-fried wares at every opportunity, we need to teach our kids that
a burger and fries is a nice treat, to be enjoyed without guilt, but that most often,
we need to resist the siren call of KFC (no matter how often we hear it) and
cook meals from scratch, with plenty of vegetables. Even if the kids are
exposed to so much junk food advertising that they start demanding chips with
every meal, there’s a pretty simple solution to that problem – the word ‘no’.
Since eating is something we need to do every single day of
our lives, there should be room on the menu for healthy stuff AND the
occasional stuffed-crust pizza. Denying that pizza exists is only ever going to
be a short term solution for obesity – when kids grow up and discover that,
hey, Santa doesn’t exist but never mind, deep-fried mozzarella sticks do,
they’re going to be woefully under-prepared for resisting temptation. That’s
why I say we need to let them see what’s out there.
Besides, you only get one
life, which is much too short to completely deny yourself one of our greatest
pleasures. And even if I could lengthen that life by living exclusively off
the juice diet, to be honest, I just wouldn’t be able to see the point.