Celebrated British chef Jamie Oliver of “Naked Chef” fame, who is passionate about fresh, delicious and uncomplicated food, takes the rising numbers of children struggling with obesity in the world to heart and is doing whatever he can to help combat it. He has come up with a list of recommendations which he has presented in hopes that through education and small, attainable changes, the next generation will live longer and healthier lives.
His platform as a celebrity has allowed Oliver to draw attention to this epidemic, making it his personal mission to encourage simple lifestyle and diet alterations that will ultimately lead to lower food-related illness rates. While his focus so far has been on children in the United Kingdom and the United States, these ideas are practical for every corner of the globe where a diet of processed foods has become the norm.
One of the biggest sources of empty calories for school-aged children and teenagers is sugary soft drinks. Oliver advocates for placing a tax on these drinks to raise money that would be used on food education programs, while also encouraging the consumption of more water and drinks without added sugar or sweeteners, which are typically less expensive or free.
If food and beverage companies gradually reduce the sugar found in their products, consumers aren’t likely to detect changes in new recipes because their taste buds will slowly adapt to them. This technique has already been used successfully to reduce salt in many packaged foods.
Reading a food label should be a simple process that even a child can figure out, yet many parents struggle with understanding portion sizes, nutrition facts and ingredients. Labeling should be standardized so that it is easy to know exactly what is inside the package.
Make a School Food Plan
It is imperative for schools to educate students about food and nutrition. Government should back an extensive plan to improve cooked school lunches and introduce standards for packed lunches too, as they generally do not meet minimum nutritional standards.
The advertising and marketing of unhealthy foods that targets children should be banned, and stores should make it clear which foods are high in fat, salt and sugar. There should also be incentives for supermarkets to work with organizations that place healthy, fresh foods in the hands of lower-income families.
Diagnose and Prevent
The UK has an existing program called the National Child Measurement Programme, and Oliver believes it should be expanded so that obesity can be caught in its earliest stages so that preventative measures can be taken. This type of program should be implemented everywhere.
Jamie Oliver’s inspiring activism regarding childhood obesity is certainly bringing needed attention to this serious issue on both individual and governmental levels. Get involved with this exciting movement in your own family and community, starting with Oliver’s Ted Talk for more inspiration on the subject: