The obesity fightback starts today

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

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I wonder sometimes whether some parents need schooling more than their sons and daughters.

Don’t worry, I am not about to launch into a holier than thou rant about what a great parent I am, but I would like to think that I am not too lazy or ignorant to care, when it comes to my offspring.

I am constantly rationing phone and tablet use and checking when and what my child has been eating and drinking, before altering her diet accordingly, over the week. It takes time and effort and sometimes it makes me feel like the ‘Fun Police’ but I tell myself that she will thank me for it when she is older.

The same cannot be said of some parents in Gillingham in Kent.

One frustrated head teacher, Jon Carthy, from Byron Primary School, has revealed some of the awful packed lunches his pupils are sent to school with - including a crisp roll, with two packets of crisps and a cold Happy Meal!

But, before we all point a finger at the mums and dads of Kent, let’s look a little closer to home; over 30% of children in Year 10, in this city, are obese or overweight, so this sort of legal child poisoning must be happening here too.

Surely you don’t need a degree in applied mathematics to realise that four yoghurts and a bag of Smarties is not a balanced diet, or that an all chocolate lunchbox is eventually going to give your youngest type two diabetes.

It is harder for parents these days with the proliferation of fast food, sugary snacks and advertising. Aside from the pop van coming around once a week, to deliver the dandelion and burdock, none of these temptations existed when I was chomping on a beetroot sandwich.

Often mums didn’t go to work and cooked ‘proper’ food more often, and most kids either walked or cycled to school, because cars were few and far between,

You afford to nibble on the odd sugar sandwich (apparently, a popular snack for listeners to the Big Conversation on Radio Cambs) in the 50’s and 60’s because you knew you were going to burn those calories off on your bike.

These days children are far more sedentary, with an invitation to a sugar shot lurking on every corner, normally in the shape of some huge golden arches or a smiling old man, who looks a bit like grandad.

I can’t believe that any parent wants to abuse their child with food and drink and surely, everybody knows that fruit and veg is better for them than chocolate, crisps and cola – nobody is that thick.

So why do parents keep sticking it in their little ones’ lunch boxes; is it laziness, anything for a quiet life?

Don’t tell me it is cheaper to feed them fast food, because it isn’t. For the price of a cold McDonald’s Happy Meal you could buy a whole bag of potatoes, some apples, carrots, and a couple of tins of tuna; enough food to make three or four healthy meals.

It’s up to parents to take a lead here, put some effort in and use their common sense, we cannot rely on the government, or those that feed this obesity crisis, to keep our children healthy.

I know it’s hard work to constantly berate and cajole your children. I know we all want to play happy families and keep the peace, but some things are worth arguing about.

We should also demand that our schools only serve a balanced diet, and that fast food is replaced by healthy options; we must take a stand or our children will be dead before we are. They have never been so ‘ill” and it’s our fault.

So, let’s ban the burger and bring on the broccoli, chop the chocolate and celebrate the celery, cancel the crisps and cut some carrots. Let the fightback against obesity start today in your house.