Sitting next to a person on a bus or train who’s chomping their way through a burger, a box of fries or even a banana for that matter can be pretty off-putting, but the idea that it could be illegal to eat on public transport has caused wide-spread outrage.
Dame Sally Davies, who has made this recommendation in her final report as England’s chief medical officer, is unrepentant. She thinks it will help solve the childhood obesity issue in England and told the media that her suggestions have probably not gone far enough.
Changes in the law
It’s all very well to knock Dame Sally, but it wasn’t so long ago that the idea of smoking and, latterly, drinking alcohol being banned on public transport created a similar sense of disbelief. Yet, now they’ve become law, we don’t bat an eyelid at these ‘infringements’. They’re the new norm.
As a society we have become used to high-sugar, high-fat, nutrient-poor foods and drinks being promoted, sold and consumed everywhere, all the time.
Dame Sally seems to be saying that it’s time to reset this norm and go back to a time when we weren’t bombarded with adverts for high-calorie snacks. And not to think it’s normal to eat a snack every couple of hours.
The upside of a recalibration of our daily expectations around food and movement is that children will be born into a society where it’s normal to consume healthy food in appropriate amounts, at appropriate times and to be as active as possible in their daily lives.
The downside is that we feel initially indignant and angry and kick-off about the ‘nanny state’ wanting to take all the fun out of our lives.
Why we need change
But there is another more serious downside to this whole business if we say ‘thank you very much, Dame Sally’ and do nothing except go along with the status quo. If we choose this option, our children will be at even greater risk of weight gain, obesity and the lifelong degenerative diseases that accompany this predicament.
So you kind of have to sit back and consider what’s worse. Whether we do something and feel put out for a bit, or we don’t and we have to tell the next generation why we weren’t prepared to change things for the sake of their future health.
Nobody, as far as I can see, is actually telling us never to eat between meals again. If you want to snack, then there are plenty of nutrient packed options to go for: nuts, seeds, fruit and yogurt, fruit loaf, a bowl of wholegrain or a cappuccino with a piece of dark chocolate. And let’s be honest, if you count them within your daily energy needs, nobody is saying you can’t enjoy biscuits, cakes and puddings.
If you love them, then have a sensible size, stick to within your 30g of free sugars a day. Do think about when and where you consume them and do so in a way that helps children to understand their place in an overall healthy diet and lifestyle.
You don’t need to suck the fun, taste or enjoyment from your diet. But surely it does have to be worth stopping and thinking about how changing todays’ habits could positively impact on the lives and health of, not just todays’ children, but those of generations to come.