N° 26 | September 2008

Currently, preventing childhood obesity is geared to putting a stop to the intense

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Editorial

Currently, preventing childhood obesity is geared to putting a stop to the intense, unethical drive to commercialise many aspects of children’s lives. Child labour used to be common in Europe and sadly still is in the developing world, but essentially society has always focused on the need to protect children. Those who still believe in the discredited economic system of an unfettered free market model emphasise the role of parental responsibility, but what can parents do to cope with the current “obesogenic” or “toxic” environment?

Parents can play a key role in ensuring their child’s wellbeing. Prepregnancy nutrition is now considered to influence fetal growth: adequate intakes of fruit, vegetables and essential fats, with modest intakes of animal protein, not only limit congenital defects but affect the child’s long term health. Mothers on a good diet and who breast feed influence the baby’s food preferences; weaning onto fruit and vegetables establishes long term taste preferences. The pre-school period is crucial and parents can ensure they establish a Mediterranean food system at home. Avoid “food choices” because children are better on a fixed high quality diet until their mid teen-age years. Nurseries should be regulated to provide high quality foods and active play.

Parents can also influence the school arrangements for food and nutrition education, promoting the development of parental contracts which prohibit in-school confectionary, soft drinks or “junk” food. They can also promote local community schemes which use the Finnish model of including vegetables and a salad bar within the cost of main meals at local restaurants/ canteens. So parents still have an influential role!

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