Many people instinctively recoil from directives to eat more of this or less of that kind of food. So the long-established five-a-day campaign, to encourage us all to eat more fruit and vegetables, left a lot of people cold. That was not because they disagreed that fruit and vegetables are part of a good, healthy diet, but because of the nanny-state-knows-best attitude inherent in the messages.
When it comes to children's meals at school, however, there is a generally accepted responsibility to serve up healthy and nutritious food. For one thing, children sitting down to a meal at school are, to all intents and purposes, a captive audience with little or no choice about what they eat. For another, adults can choose to eat healthily or not and be expected to know what they are doing. Children cannot.
So on that basis the campaign launched by Westcountry food writer and broadcaster Fiona Faulkner to get children to eat two or more of their five-a-day at lunchtime in school has a great deal to commend it. The revelation that some children have no idea about vegetables, believing that broccoli grows on trees and beetroot is poisonous, underlines the need to educate youngsters about food as well as feed them the right sorts of meals.
It is clear that learning good habits early on makes sense and should help children stick to the right sorts of foods later in life. Simply giving them an understanding of what is on their plates and an enthusiasm for food makes a big difference. It has been noted in recent years that nations where they take a big interest – an obsession, even – in the food they eat tend to have lower rates of obesity than those nations where diners are less discerning. That's why education is so important.
We are happy, therefore, to commend a little bit of nannying when it comes to fruit and vegetables for youngsters. Preaching to adults about cutting down on the carbs, eating less meat or switching to tofu burgers and bean sprouts has no place in a grown-up society. Tell them the facts and let them make up their own minds. Giving children a good start in life, by serving them two or more vegetables with their lunch, on the other hand, makes perfect sense and should be encouraged.
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After the most successful Olympic Games for a generation, fears must have been high that the Paralympics might fail to live up to what had gone before. We need not have worried. With a home venue and a nation hungry for more uplifting sport after a great Olympic Games, the Paralympics so far has been a brilliant spectacle, hugely entertaining and magnificently inspiring. It was interesting, during the Olympics, to contrast the good-hearted way the athletes in all disciplines performed and compare that to some other professional sports where gamesmanship and off-field antics seem to take precedence. The Paralympics is surpassing even the Olympics in that regard. It's an honour to watch them.