Tuesday 17 October 2017

Comment: 'These days, I see Irish parents give children plates of food that would make a grown adult sweat'

Parents are increasing their children’s chances of being overweight or obese by serving them up adult-sized portions of popular meals. Stock Image: GETTY
Parents are increasing their children’s chances of being overweight or obese by serving them up adult-sized portions of popular meals. Stock Image: GETTY
We need to give our children smaller portions, or they'll end up super-sized. Pic: posed. Stock image.

Anna Nolan

As a child, way back in the 1970s, we would all be called for tea. There would be a dash down the stairs to the kitchen, shoving each other out of the way, to get a nice chair (and not be left with one of the stools).

Mam would have all the plates laid out on the table, with decreasing portion sizes on each plate.

Mary, Jane, Rachel, Anna, Kevin, Isobel and Eleanor. Or whoever was there for the meal. The size of the portions would get smaller from the eldest to the youngest. Like a flat version of Russian dolls.

Mary with the biggest, the smallest with the smallest. (Except for Kevin. Between my plate and Isobel's plate there would be a blip to the sequence. A larger potion for the "growing boy!" Hmmmmm.)

We could tell immediately which plate was ours by counting down the sizes. No fighting, no discussion. My dinner was the fourth biggest. A small portion, which filled me up and never left me hungry. Perfect.

Today, I see children being given plates of food that would make a grown adult sweat.

We need to give our children smaller portions, or they'll end up super-sized. Pic: posed. Stock image.
We need to give our children smaller portions, or they'll end up super-sized. Pic: posed. Stock image.

In restaurants and cafes, young boys and girls are ordering off the main menu and are treated to the same dishes as their folks.

As they toss around giant portions of pasta, or struggle with their knives and forks hacking at huge pieces of fish (in relation to their size) children today have never had it tougher saying no.

No to food. It is there in front of them, too tempting to leave behind, too tasty to push away.

I was in Madrid recently, and noted that their approach to food was so very different to ours.

The whole tapas thing is fascinating. Small dishes, ordered one after the other. You eat a couple, and see how you feel. If you are still hungry, you order more. If not, you stop ordering.

As Irish eaters, the tapas thing terrifies us. So many thoughts go through our heads. "What if I am still hungry after the meal?"; "Dear God, what if I don't have them all on the table at the same time? I'LL DIE."

As for sharing? That brings on a whole other level of fear.

In this country our brains and stomachs have become used to wanting to be full as soon as possible. That's why we eat the bread rolls before the meal.

That's why some of us get tetchy if the waiter doesn't take the order as soon as possible. That's why we will have no problem pushing through that full feeling to finish off everything on the plate.

Since becoming an adult, in charge of my own consumption of food, I see how we eat culturally, and the fear we have of not having enough.

Portions are key. I saw it in Spain. People ate a small amount and decided thereafter if they were still hungry.

Children will find it very, very hard if, from a young age, they see a large plate covered in food and they are allowed to eat it all.

Surely it would be better for a small child to learn to eat portions that are perfectly suited to their size. Then they will know when to stop.

Herald

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