Category Archives: Food policy

World Obesity Day 2016

World Obesity Day is led by the World Obesity Federation, which represents researchers, health professionals, members of communities around the world that are committed to prevent and treat obesity.

World Obesity Day is part of their Action Initiative.

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This year, the focus is on ending childhood obesity. Worldwide, 222 million school children are overweight or obese. Childhood obesity has a strong impact on children’s health and it’s a risk factor for many preventable chronic diseases later in life such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. If we want to meet the WHO target to reduce childhood obesity to 2010 levels by 2025 we must act now.

World Obesity Day aims at raising awareness about the global epidemic of obesity, encourage governments to take action, encourage associations and communities to get involved to overcome childhood obesity.

No single action is sufficient to stop this problem and we should do our part.

We live in an “obesogenic” environment which doesn’t make it easy to adopt a healthy lifestyle, but not impossible. We can all make small changes that can improve the quality of our children’s life.

Proper nutrition and adequate physical activity are great allies to raise healthy children.

 

  • Starting the day with a nutritious breakfast will help children to focus and function better in school. Cereal breakfast, doughnuts, fruit juices contain so much sugar that could be considered more like dessert than breakfast. Homemade oat meal, a slice of bread with low-sugar jelly, milk, sugar-free yogurt or a fruit are better options.
  • Kids don’t like eating veggies. Kids love eating sweets. Guess what, we can switch those two statements. Kids have a natural preference for sweet foods. And it’s true, many of them refuse to eat broccoli or spinach. But once we teach them that it’s important to include veggies and fruits in their diet, they’ll give it a try. There are different strategies and tips that can help us to gradually include veggies in our kids’ lunch and dinner, and have them to enjoy the nutritious and delicious meals. Let’s do our best to make sure kids consume at least five portions of fruit and veggies per day.
  • Sugary drinks should really be called liquid candy. Sodas, fruit juices, and other soft drinks contain way too much sugar. We can and should advocate and encourage governments to pass soda taxes and we should ask food industry to reformulate their products and restrict the marketing of less healthy foods to children. Unfortunately, there are lots of conflicts of interest and money involved in all these issues so it might take some time before something gets done in this direction. However, we have the power to decide what to buy and what to put on our children’s plate.
  • Nutrition education in school should be implemented. In some countries, students follow classes like Health Education, but only a few hours are about nutrition. In other countries Nutrition education programs aren’t well developed and don’t lead to long-lasting healthy habits. We should implement these programs and have kids learn about food, its value, properties and health benefits, since preschool. As a nutrition educator in elementary schools I can say that kids are really interested in this matter. They show enthusiasm in learning how to grow the veggies that later they’re going to cook, and why eating only fries is not good for their health. Teachers, parents, community members, local health professionals should get involved, work together and contribute to the education of next generation.
  • Physical activity alone is not sufficient to lose weight or prevent obesity. But, being active helps prevent several diseases, improves our mood, and it’s a great opportunity for kids to socialize with their pairs. Adults spend lots of hours sitting and children are getting used to this bad habit too: they seat in school, in the car/bus traveling to school, at home while doing homework, playing games, watching TV. Let’s encourage kids to find activities they enjoy, build physical activity into family life, and soon it’ll become a regular activity.

 

Obesity is often referred to as a global epidemic and there’s a reason for it. If we don’t act now, it is estimated that more than 2.6 million school-aged children globally will be obese by 2025. The good news is that it is preventable!!

Food Revolution Day 2016

It’s Food Revolution Day, a day to celebrate good food, nutrition, health, and to invite people to join the revolution.

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I’m a big fan of this event, also because it reminds me of the reason why I decided to pursue a career in the field of nutrition and health promotion.

I was living in New York when Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution aired on tv. Learning how kids were fed in school, how little people knew about the link between food and chronic diseases, seeing children not recognizing the different veggies, and other kids crying because they didn’t want to get diabetes like their relatives…It was very touching.

Living in New York, I could see by myself that many people, especially children, were overweight or obese. I could see that the most popular areas of the supermarket were the pastries, frozen food, snack and drink aisles. But after watching Jamie Oliver’s tv show I started to pay more attention to what I was surrounded by. I started to read articles and books about nutrition, I engaged in conversations about food and how it affects our health. It was very inspirational and made me realize that I was more interested in helping people to prevent diseases, rather than selling drugs to cure them. So I decided to go back to school and enhance my knowledge in nutrition and health with a clear goal in mind:  help people to embrace a healthy lifestyle!!!

Being a “revolutionary” is part of my mission. I love Food Revolution day and I am proud to be part of a community of people who promote and advocate for access to fresh and healthy food, for nutrition education and healthy meals in school, and think that is important to teach people how to cook and assemble a healthy meal.

Right now, 41 million children under 5 are overweight, while another 159 million are too undernourished to grow properly. It’s time to get together and do something to fight obesity and undernutrition!!

Are you ready to take a stand and be a Revolutionary? Please sign up and share by using the links below.

You can also join the omelette challenge. Yes, you read it right. This year, Jamie Oliver launched The Food Revolution International Omelette Challenge. Prepare an omelette, your own style, take a picture and share it on any of the #FoodRevolution platform. I prepared a traditional Italian frittata with zucchini. You can find the recipe here.

Happy Food Revolution day everyone!!

http://www.jamiesfoodrevolution.org/news/

https://signup.jamiesfoodrevolution.org/index.html

 

#SugarTax UK

Last week, the UK government announced the introduction of a sugar levy on soft drinks that will be effective in 2018.

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The tax will be split in two levels: one for drinks with total sugar content above 5g per 100 milliliters and a second for the most sugary drinks containing more than 8g per 100 milliliters. Small producers, pure fruit juices and milk-based drinks will be exempted.

The government expects that the tax will be passed entirely on the consumers and the revenue collected, an estimated £520m the first year, will be spent to fund sports in primary schools, at least in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are free to decide how to spend their share.

Adding a tax on fizzy drinks should discourage or at least reduce the consumption of sugar, present in high amount in these beverages (a can of soda contains up to 40 grams of free sugars, around 10 teaspoons).

sugar drinksThe guidelines issued by the World Health Organizations (WHO) in March 2015 recommend to reduce sugar intake to less that 10% of total calories (about 12.5 teaspoons). A further reduction to below 5% (6 teaspoons) of total energy is suggested. These recommendations are based on the results of scientific studies that showed a positive association between high amount of sugar in the diet and weight gain and higher rates of dental caries. In addition, other studies showed that children who consume high quantities of sugar-sweetened drinks tend to be overweight or obese.

Which were the reactions to this announcement?

Chef Jamie Oliver, who strongly advocated for this tax, was happy about the decision made by the government, but he also said that the tax alone won’t be enough to tackle obesity.

Public Health England and other organizations such as International Diabetes Federation (IDF) welcomed the initiative.

Others, like Professor Robert Lustig, criticized the decision of the UK government not to tax fruit juices. After all, they can contain as much sugar as sodas so why exempt them?

What about the soda industry? How did they react? Coca-Cola Great Britain said that a tax is not the proper solution to obesity and they, along with other soft drink companies, want to sue the government for discrimination, because the tax won’t affect fruit juices or milkshakes!

Will a soda tax work?

With this economic tool, UK joined other countries such as France, Mexico, and Norway that already have a similar measure or will soon have it (South Africa in 2017).

In Mexico, the tax on soft drinks came into effect in 2014, and a recent study concluded that the purchase of these drinks declined by 12% by December 2014.

Berkley, California, introduced the tax in November 2014 but an analysis conducted by Cornell University and University of Iowa showed that less than half of the tax was passed on the consumers. As a result, soft drinks aren’t more expensive and their sales didn’t decrease.

Indeed, such a policy tool must be designed with particular care otherwise it will be ineffective.

The levy on sugary drinks in UK will come into force in April 2018 so companies will have time to reformulate their products, besides investing a lot of money in campaigns to beat back the tax.

Hopefully, the government will use this time to implement the plan to make sure this powerful economic tool won’t fail, and that it will spend the money that will be raised to promote healthy eating and physical activity.