When healthy eating goes too far!

Our society is undeniably diet obsessed and with a national obesity crisis looming is it any wonder that there are more and more people trying to jump on the bandwagon by releasing exercise dvd‘s, health plans and diet books? The number of children who are considered obese has more than tripled in England over the past 25 years and if the current trends continue, the number of overweight or obese children, worldwide, will increase from 42  to 70 million by 2025. But how do we go about tackling this problem in our children without exposing them to the numerous fad diets, which are likely to further their issues with food?

The Paleo diet, is one such diet that has recently hit the headlines. Australian celebrity chef Pete Evans has compiled a “paleo diet” cookbook for children entitled ‘Bubba Yum Yum: The Paleo Way’ which encourages parents to feed their young children only the food that our cavemen ancestors would have consumed. The main bone of contention (pardon the pun) within the cookbook is a recipe for baby formula, which is made from bone broth and said to contain up to ten times the safe amount of vitamin A for babies. Health professionals have taken a very dim view of it, with one sensationally claiming that if the book were to be published “a baby may die”. Amidst the controversy, Pan Macmillan, who were set to publish the book, have since dropped any association with it, forcing Evans to go ahead and self publish it digitally.

Let’s take a look at what the Paleo diet actually is. Basically, it follows the ideology that our bodies were designed to simply eat the foods that naturally grew or lived around us during the Paleolithic era. In prehistoric times the hunter gatherers would go out for the day hunting wild animals and gathering nuts, berries, fruits etc. Advocates of the Paleo diet argue that in those times, diseases, such as cancer, did not exist and they believe it is primarily down to the foods that were eaten. Foods which should not be eaten therefore, include anything that contains artificial or manmade ingredients, junk food, partially hydrogenated oils, grains, dairy, legumes, potatoes. Now whilst it is abundantly clear that cutting down on processed and junk food would have a massive positive effect on the diets of our children, it it also a huge concern that by cutting out dairy and grains, they would be missing out on vital nutrients.

Lucy Jones, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association (BDA) says, “There isn’t any proof that it improves health, and its demand that you exclude food groups essential to health such as dairy, grains and legumes could leave people seriously deficient in essential vitamins and calcium, not to mention constipated from the lack of dietary fibre.” Jones is also quick to point out that although certain diseases didn’t exist, the life expectancy was also dramatically lower with only a small minority of our paleo ancestors making it into their forties and many of the children would have died before they reached the age of 15.

Clearly it is up to each individual set of  parents to decide how to feed their children, but  before we can educate our children about eating healthily we must tackle the problem of educating the parents. In our hectic society where time is short and convenience seems the easy option, it is very difficult to take time out to cook from scratch using healthy ingredients. However, the key thing to remember is that the health of our children should be up their with one of life’s priorities. Take the time to sit down as a family and enjoy meals together, get the children involved in helping prepare or cook meals and buy food from different places to increase their knowledge of where food comes from. A child’s diet shouldn’t need to be restricted, they are growing and need all of the key nutrients to ensure the healthiest growth possible.