Monday, 16 December 2013

Small Steps With Safe Food

I recently attended a webinar organised by the Safe Food campaign about childhood obesity. A few things struck a chord with me.

Photo credit: Safe Food
Firstly, the mention of screen time. My children watch quite a lot of television. We go out every day we can so in the summer they watch far less of it. I have never worried too much about the TV. Both my children came late to television appreciation but when they did they did it in style! I used to wonder if they'd ever watch it but now they know what's on when. My sister was always very strict about television time with her two sons. Even if they're in my house they'll let me know when the programme they're watching has finished so I can turn the TV off. The Safe Food website has tips for reducing your children's screen time here. I thought it would be a mammoth task but really we've reduced ours quite quickly. My new rule of no TV before 12 noon has been easy to implement. In our case it may be that my children don't see me watching TV but they do see me on the computer. I've reduced my computer screen time by getting up early and having a lot of things done before my children get up.

Another point that hit home with me about childhood obesity was the sugar content in juice drinks. The link to the information about this on the Safe Food website is here. My children don't ever get fizzy drinks, they usually have cordial diluted with water. I have started keeping a beaker of water by the sink for myself so that it's at room temperature when I drink it and my girls have noticed this. Everytime I take a sip they ask for some. It's just water but because I have it in a container especially for myself they have to have some too. So, I'm going to get two more beakers and leave them out for the girls.

The subject of portion sizes was part of the webinar too, which is a subject that those who know me know I go on too much about. I switched plate sizes in our house two years ago. I said nothing to my husband, just served meals up on small plates instead of large ones. It made no difference to the children because their plates were small anyway. It was only the other day I mentioned it to Martin and he said he hadn't noticed. If any of us want more when we've cleared our small plates we just get more, it's not that there's any less food to eat, just that we're not starting off with too much of it as a target. You can find tips on reducing portion sizes here. I often find myself looking for ways to use leftovers or make a healthy meal on a budget and I can recommend Wholesome Ireland.

One thing I would like to add to the Safe Food campaign's information is that, in my opinion, it is important not to mistake a child's need for sugary food or drinks as something that can always be controlled by changes in daily routine. Of course there might be any number of things a child could be suffering from but the one I have experience of is worms. There are a few different types of worms but practically all children will get threadworms at some stage and, more likely, over and over again. You can get worms a number of ways: Not washing fruit and vegetables properly before eating, playing outside in the mud (I'm pretty sure this is where mine got them!), etc. The first time I ever heard the subject mentioned was when I went to the doctor on my own behalf and happened to mention that I didn't know why my children were suddenly erratic, needy and upset. The doctor mentioned that it could be worms. It was the first time I ever heard of it but it is something most children will get. Mine had no itchy bums or nose-picking which I now know are more obvious signs to watch out for.  I dose my children twice a year now, in July and December, you need to dose everyone in the house. Since my two are good eaters I hadn't noticed the symptom of over-eating. It was only when I'd given the two doses of Vermox (available over-the-counter, we used the tablets) a couple of weeks apart that I realised that there had been a lot of shouting for food. There was a marked difference in my children once they had been treated. Bear in mind that I'm not a health professional and you need to speak to someone qualified before giving any medication to children. It's inexplicable to me why public health nurses, pharmacists and doctors don't mention worms to new parents, had I not casually mentioned it to my doctor my girls would still be suffering. I think making sure your children are healthy and balanced before trying to implement any new routines is very important.

I have planned some reading related to the Safe Food campaign against childhood obesity. I don't think either of my children are currently at risk but I still think it's important to be aware of the basics of this campaign, the more informed we all have the better for all our children. There is a wealth of information and resources on the Safe Food website You can follow Safe Food on Facebook and Twitter and get their advice on the "small steps that make a big difference."

Image credit: Safe Food


  1. Great post Joanna! I always find we swing towards too much of everything, pull right back, and then start swinging back again. A slow swing. Over several weeks or months sometimes: often I just need a reminder like this to keep everything in check. The TV thing is difficult here, with so many different ages, but despite the constant battling most of the time I'm fairly happy with it. As you said, it's hard when the weather is awful outside. Btw, LOVE your new header :-)

  2. Thanks so much, Emily, That's a good way of describing it, I was the same at the webinar, it made me think about things that I don't consider real problems in our daily lives but that could be.