independent

Thursday 2 October 2014

French get to gut of the problem

Published 15/04/2014 | 05:38

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We were trying to get the young lad to eat some cabbage today. As he sat there swaying his fork about with a mouthful of boiled cabbage clinging onto its teeth for dear life, I threw him a line of encouragement.

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'Gareth Bale loves cabbage,' I said, without a shred of evidence to back up my claim.

He stopped rotating the cabbage and looked at me. 'What about Ronaldo?' 'Yep, he loves it too.' 'Messi?' 'Can't get enough of it.' Within seconds he was guzzling down the vegetable that has an unfair reputation among the young of today. He washed it down with gulps of milk, to prevent the taste from lingering in his mouth.

There has been a lot about the dietary habits of children in the media lately.

The French have recently launched an all-out war on their worsening childhood obesity problem, with a poster of an ice-cream cone (pictured) hitting home the message to parents in no uncertain terms.

The slogan that runs across the bottom of the image translates as 'obesity starts at a young age'. Once seen, it is unforgettable. Though I feel it's a bit hard on the '99' when along with sunburn, wasp stings and builders' bums, they are a vital component of an Irish summer.

Meanwhile, the Irish health watchdog has launched a campaign to get more children playing outside again. Called Safefood's Bring Back Play, the campaign hopes to reverse a current trend where many children are not getting enough exercise. The campaigners claim that currently four out of five children are not reaching the optimum 60 minutes of activity per day and about 25 per cent of primary school students are overweight or obese.

It recommends fifteen games that you might remember from your own childhood. These are games that should tempt the young ones into calling time on their relationship with a joystick and explaining to Sonic, Mario, Ratchet, Clank and the gang that there are plenty of other activities in the sea.

Do you remember Kerbs, Tip the Can, Tig, Rounders, Simon Says, Hopscotch or even Skipping? Indeed, there was a time when kids were given a stick of chalk, a rope, and they would stay outside from dawn till dusk (with the odd meal break of course).

I suppose the point the health watchdogs are trying to get across is that we all played these games as kids, but how many of today's youngsters have even heard tell of them? Or would they have any interest in playing them? Therefore, it takes an effort on our parts to encourage them.

Childhood obesity has the potential to worsen rapidly; the French poster campaign is in response to the fact that the number of obese people in France has doubled to seven million in recent years. As for the Irish government following suit with billboard posters of '99s' dripping in strawberry syrup and a chocolate flake rocketing out up top? I don't think so. I imagine it would have the opposite effect on Irish brains, and the sales of '99s' would rocket through the roof.

For maximum impact, they would have to think of a poster far more gut-wrenching than that.

New Ross Standard

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