Mental Health Bites

Let’s talk about ‘junk food’

If you keep up to date with health and wellbeing news you will have noticed, flashing across your screen in the last day or two, coverage that states that the UK advertising watchdog plans to ban ’junk food’ ads from streaming during children focused content online via platforms such as YouTube and ITV Hub.

Airing ‘junk food’ or ‘unhealthy food’ ads during children’s TV has actually been banned since 2007; at which time Ofcom brought rules into place to restrict the advertising of high fat, sugar and salt foods (now know as HFSS). Some of you will inevitably be reading this post and thinking “great” and agreeing with the notion to ban HFSS foods being advertised to your children. Who doesn’t want their children to be as healthy as possible?

BUT, I don’t think it is as simple as that. To start with, if you tell them they can’t have something, or “it’s only for grown-ups” then, for most children, they want it all the more. This for some will also result in binging on the food when it is available, because they don’t know when it might be available again. This is a poor lesson in dietary attitude and doesn’t teach any self-regulation at all. So imagine what might happen when this child later becomes an adult and can make their own decisions…. Well, simply they won’t find it that easy and may go on to develop issues with food.

Sure, this above scenario doesn’t apply to everyone. Lots of children will grow into adults and learn to manage their food consumption without problems – but we live in a society with a growing food-related problem. To me this is one example of why the banning of food is short sighted.

Instead we would be better educating our children (and indeed we adults!) about what a healthy diet really is, enabling them to make informed and balanced decisions. Sure, sometimes children (and again, adults!) will eat HFSS foods but, actually, in moderation that IS HEALTHY!!

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The notion that a low fat, low sugar, low salt diet is healthy is actually not entirely correct. Your body needs all of those things in moderation to be healthy. Food is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (called junk) food. Food is food and we can make healthier choices for ourselves, given the opportunity.

So, yes – lets talk and take action to create a healthier population – but let’s do it in a way that is honest and clear and informative, rather than just creating more problems for the future!

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