The BBC have reported that there will now be a ban on online adverts for certain foods. Online advertisements high in fat, salt or sugar that are aimed at children will be banned and it will also apply to any other media where the audience has more than a quarter of it being aged under 16. This is try to stop childhood obesity.
Some feel that this does not go far enough because many children will watch shows or look at online content and games that are not targeted at children and therefore are not covered by the rules. Others say it has been a long time coming when it was back in 2007 when the same rules were applied to children’s television.
With reports showing that a third of children are overweight or obese when they leave primary school, it is obvious that something needs to be done to help. It was suggested that the rules should apply to all television up until the nine o-clock watershed so that children had minimal exposure to them.
Although this is part of the government’s childhood obesity policy and children do need help, it seems to ignore the fact that adults need help as well. If adults are encouraged to be healthier then this will surely influence the food that they buy for their children and what they teach them about healthy eating. It is unlikely to work the other way round and it is very difficult for children to tell their parents what to buy and what they would like to eat.
Of course, it will be very difficult to measure whether the new restrictions will have any influence at all. This is because there will still be advertising elsewhere, unhealthy foods will still be available to buy and those who have already established unhealthy eating habits may not be prepared to change. It could be that they hope that if the younger generation do not get into unhealthy eating habits then they will grow up healthier and less likely to inflict those habits on their children. However, this is only one part of the story. They also need to know what they should be eating as well as what they should be avoiding. They need to know how to cook and how to cook healthy meals. They need to be taught what is healthy and why it is important to eat healthy foods. They also need to get this in schools form a young age, from a school which does not reward them with sweets or chocolate, has healthy school meals and encourages parents to provide healthy lunch boxes.
There have been suggestions in the past that it would be better for special offers to be banned in supermarkets on junk food, that there should be tax and more regulation on the amounts of fats and sugars in foods. The government use the reduction in salt as an example of how industry can self regulate as it was advised that salt levels were reduced in food and they have been, slowly over the years. Manufacturers slowly reduced amounts so that consumers did not notice and still bought their products. If this is done with fat and sugar it could take a long time before products change and this could lead to it being too late for many people.
It can be difficult for consumers as well. They are given mixed messages about what is healthy and therefore they do not always know what the best things are to buy. They might be told that saturated fats and unhealthy one day and that they are not that bad another. They may be avoiding fat and having carbs instead and be told that they should be avoiding sugar and eating fat or perhaps that it does not matter what they eat as long as they reduce portion size or calorie content. Other believe that fasting for a while and then eating anything on other days will work. This means that even if you have good intensions and want to work hard to eat the right things, it is difficult to know exactly what to do that will help you.
If you are in this position then it is wise to think about the messages that all of the diets and healthy eating plans agree on. One of these is sugar. You will not find that there is anyone that will say that it is good for you apart from the sugar industry and therefore you can know that you should be cutting it down or even out completely. Another thing is 5-a-day although some people believe that we should have more than this with regards to portions of fruit and vegetables. They may disagree on what you should eat, with some saying lots of varied colours and others saying greens only to avoid too much sugar, but that is something else you could try as well. Portion size is often something which they agree on as well, with most advice being that we should not eat too much as portions are getting bigger. Even making those few changes could have a significant impact on your health and weight and so could be worth a try.
It is not easy to change our habits and it is easy to blame the government, our genes, television advertising, supermarkets or the food industry. However, it is time that we recognised that there are many different influences on our sizes and what we eat and we need to look at each of them in order to tackle the problem, not just a few areas. However, it is also important to recognise that even a small step is better than nothing and so a ban on advertising could be seemingly small but if it only helps a few children be healthier, it could be worth it. It could also lead to other positive changes as well. So we all need to do our bit for it to work.