Obesity is fast becoming a serious issue in the UK although it isn’t exactly new information. People are implying convenience food is more, well, convenient, cheaper and quicker however I do contest that. With a bit of planning, I make my own “convenience” food. You can make up some spicy bean burgers in about 15 minutes and then freeze them, meaning I can grab something quick when I get home from work. It also costs more for a bag of frozen chips than a bag of frozen peas these days so I don’t believe the financial excuse either. So it’s great to see The Vegan Society are currently pushing the idea that a vegan diet is suitable for children and can also help tackle the shocking childhood obesity epidemic.
It comes at the same time Channel 4 is airing Junk Food Kids: Who’s To Blame, a documentary series looking at the damage obesity has on our children; both episodes I’ve seen show children having their milk teeth removed due to decay and not just the odd one either – one child had five baby teeth removed. One mother states that her child found brushing her teeth boring so why do that when she can watch TV for another five minutes? I’m not quite sure why she felt this was a good argument, it’s up to the parents to make it fun or simply enforce the rule that teeth must be brushed twice a day.
I’m not here to discuss parenting skills though, Jasmijn de Boo, CEO of The Vegan Society, expresses the view that an intelligent approach to veganism is an “excellent start to life for children” and I wholeheartedly agree. The health reasons for choosing a plant-based diet are whole heartedly positive however, it must be done with careful planning and let’s face it, if you can plan the telly shows you’re going to watch for the week then you can plan a few plant based meals.
One of the most potent statements from the article on the VS page is: “Vegans also have the lowest body mass index (BMI) of any group, ranging between 22 and 23.5. This compares to BMI of 23.5 to 29 for health-conscious meat-eaters*.”
A vegan diet will also boost a child’s immune system as it is full of vitamin C and Omega fats, plus they will gain sensible eating habits into adulthood. The argument of forcing beliefs or children not liking vegetables again is arguable. What happened to children eating what they were given? Growing up, the one food my mother would never force me to eat was meat. She would bargain with me to always try something and have at least two or three bites before I could finish but yet again, I’m crossing over into parenting skills and obviously I’m biased but the point is, children will normally like it once they have to eat it. As for forcing beliefs, we give our children meat without question so why is that acceptable but removing meat is seen as sick and cruel? Especially when it is scientifically proven to be a healthier option.
It’s the age-old argument that this all boils down to the right education and I will now be as harsh as the specialists on Junk Food Kids. The information on healthy and cruelty-free eating is easy to source nowadays, so it is ignorance and laziness that is allowing child obesity to escalate. The parents in question – who blame everyone but themselves – simply can’t be bothered and it’s not them that suffer it’s the children, just watch Junk Food Kids to find that out.
As the article continues, it brings up the interesting point that we teach children to respect animals and treat them kindly, we shouldn’t then teach them it is okay to inhumanely slaughter these animals and consume them. And in all honesty, if we want a planet for future generations, we have to take action as Jasmijn de Boo says: “With the planet our children will inherit in peril due to the greenhouse gas emissions from farming animals, plant-based diets for children are more crucial than ever.”
Now how can you argue with that?
*Obesity, public health, and the consumption of animal products. Deckers J1. J Bioeth Inq. 2013 Mar;10(1):29-38. doi: 10.1007/s11673-012-9411-x. Epub 2013 Jan