I was reading an article online recently about the alarming rate of childhood obesity in Australia. A recent study has revealed that one in five Australian are obese before they have even started school. Seriously! No wonder Australia is one of the fattest countries on earth.
It gets worse as we get older. 70% of Australians are overweight or obese and 60% of deaths in Australia are diet related, but as Jamie Oliver says, "...no one fucking talks about it."
Lots of kids eat at The Sweet Meadow with their families and it's something I personally love to see. In one of the first books I ever read about veganism the author, Doug Graham, was writing about why a plant-based diet full of foods in their whole, natural state is the ideal way we should be eating. He wrote, "Put the child in a room with a lamb and a banana. Sit back and watch to see which he plays with and which he eats."
Renowned chef and author Stephanie Alexander's philosophy is that there is no such thing as special food for children: if food is good, everyone will enjoy it regardless of age. This is why it disappoints me when I see families come in, look at our menu and say, "I'd be happy to eat here with my partner/mum/girlfriends but my kids just want bacon and eggs." Or, "don't you just have a normal chocolate milkshake?" or worse, "can we just get some hot chips for the little ones?"
Ugh! I feel like screaming! Eggs are high in dietary cholesterol, and bacon is packed with sodium (i.e. salt) and saturated fat. Generally "normal" chocolate milkshakes use the flavoured syrup (as in, artificial colours, preservatives and sugar), and while hot chips are technically vegan, deep frying with vegetable oils releases toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases.
I am a huge believer that our diet directly impacts our health and this is no different for children. Several studies have indicated that artificial food additives (colours, preservatives and flavour enhancers found in confectionary, soft drink, cordial, flavoured milk, cakes and biscuits) can cause hyperactivity and behavioural issues in children.
I think people need to avoid using these kinds of foods as "treats" for kids and instead offer experiences (playing outside, creating a garden, spending time with their friends, being around animals). Our early memories of food are powerful and can stay with us for life, so start at the beginning. Get kids connected to the soil and connected to growing their own food and watch how their world changes.