If your kids are like ours, they have a love for crisps. Like most parents I know, I worry about the junk food that our children are exposed to. I also worry that if I force my opinions upon them, they will more likely to want junk food. So, as parents we walk a fine line in wanting to do the right thing and wanting our children been able to decide for themselves.
So why are crisps getting such a hard time? Well, according to a British Heart Foundation survey, almost half of the children surveyed admitted to eating at least one packet of crisps a day. That is over 4 litres of cooking oil that they are 'drinking' a year. Scary stuff, but what was worse was the fact that over half of those who ate them admitted to eating two or more packets a day, meaning they consumed over nine litres of cooking oil a year. This, of course, is not taking into account the amount of salt and sugar found in crisps. (Yes, sugar! Go on; ask your kids if there is sugar in their crisp packet. I bet they will look at you if you are stupid!)
So, is there a crisp eating epidemic among our young? Well, I would not like to be the bearer of bad news, but just observe a typical corner shop when schools kids are going to school or coming home. There is a worrying trend for children to snack on junk food in preference to eating proper meals. So, while you may plan your child's health lifestyle, the reality is that they are using their pocket money to buy overly cheap, unhealthy junk food.
We have all hear horror stories about people who have over indulged, like Gina Gough, the girl, whom, by the age of 23, was eating her way through 15 packets a day. She had been doing so over a period of five years. Surprisingly, she was taken to hospital with high cholesterol and gall stones. As she said, it could have killed her! The trouble with horror stories like Gina's is that is most people don't eat an extreme amount of crisps on a daily basis, so there is an opinion that the bad effects of junk food is something that only happens to the 'junk food freaks'.
We can't blame children and their love of junk food. After all, they have been targeted by the best marketing gurus in the business. Visiting the British Heart Foundation's web site (http://www.bhf.org.uk), I came over their "How Junk Food Companies Target Our Kids" section. It is devoted to the tricks they use to promote their brand of junk food. For example, in one entry about the use of the Internet to target children I found the following: "Pom-bear's world of fun is where you'll find teddy shaped potato snacks singing and dancing, and telling you about the great prizes you can get for texting in a response. The aim of this site is obvious - it's to make very young children want a high fat, salty snack." The effects of associating fun with their brand of food on young children are obvious; it reinforces the concept that to be happy you must eat their products!
What can we do to stop this? Well for one, you can visit the British Heart Foundation's web site and sign their on-line petition. Also, make sure your school is doing its bit. You can make sure that any sports or social clubs your children attend have no junk food dispensers. The first thing, though, is to make their food more healthy and fun. Add dried fruit as an alternative or pack an extra piece of fruit, and if your kids really can't do without their packet of crisps, make sure it is a healthier variety that has been cooked in non saturated fats.