I am a vegetarian, have always been a vegetarian and I was lucky to be brought up by vegetarians so I didn’t fall into the awful trap that besets ‘new vegetarians’ who suffer from protein and vitamin deficiencies because their diet consists of too much cheese and not enough lentils/pulses/beans/nuts. In the papers there is a story of vegan parents in France feeding their 11-month baby only breast milk. The baby died of malnutrition and it makes me realise how easy it is to fall into the trap of believing that if a little is good for you then a lot of it must be better. In a society where the family circle is slowly dwindling, relationships are broken and children find themselves coping alone it is situations like this that will become more commonplace. Once the NHS gets cut down to the most crucial services – a telephone call service for emergencies? – who will advise young mothers? Who will be vigilant over the children’s welfare?
In schools they now teach children Food Technology and I am so glad they teach ALL children this subject, not just the girls. They don’t just bake cakes either, they actually discuss the nutritional values of the meals and the children are encouraged to evaluate how healthy their chosen menu is.
But schools only get one or two hours a week to teach them this important lesson. Just like everything else, this life skill needs to be developed at home, along with the value of reading, being active, being community-spirited. I am hoping this new generation will have a better sense of a balanced lifestyle, each generation improving on the one before, but when I look at the increasing rates of obesity I have to wonder where and why we are failing.
I do know that whenever I go to a restaurant or buy a sandwich as a vegetarian my options are usually reduced to something cheese-based. So I’m lucky to work in a school where healthy eating is important, fruit is always available and crisps and fizzy drinks are missing. I wonder how many other children are privileged enough to have the same facility. If this is a trend, I hope it’s catching.