In a terrifying new report from The Obesity Collective, researchers found more than 25 per cent of our children — or more than 1.2 million kids over the age of two — are now officially overweight, with almost 400,000 of those classified as obese.
It’s nothing short of a major health crisis, and it’s one that’s getting worse. The number of children officially classed as obese has grown by 60 per cent since 2011.
And yes, there are lots of likely causes. But one of the key problems in this country is that, as we all grow more time-poor, we turn to the convenience of ready-made meals and allegedly healthy snacks to feed our families, only to discover we’re pumping our children full of sugar without ever realising it.
As any working mum will tell you, time is always in short supply when it comes to balancing work commitments with school runs and sports carnivals, and so there will be times when you and your partner are simply too run off your feet to whip up healthy and nutritious food at home.
And it’s at times like these we rely on the honestly of these companies promoting products that promise “less sugar” or “all-natural ingredients”, thinking that we’re making the right decisions for our families.
Where do we find these products? In the “healthy” aisle of our local supermarket, of course. The big health-food companies heard us — we want healthier, more convenient products. But what did they do? They repackaged and rebranded their sugar-filled products without changing the ingredients at all.
You might be shocked to find that the “health” aisle is actually anything but, and is in fact stuffed with products that are packed with sugar, chemicals and other nasties, but that masquerade as nutritious snacks.
In fact, many foods stocking our health aisle have more sugar in a single serve then the World Health Organisation recommends in a whole day.
How did it go so wrong?
Take Sanatorium’s UP&GO, for example. The packaging tells you it’s a liquid breakfast with a 4.5-star health rating that offers “the right kind of energy”, along with protein and fibre.
What it doesn’t tell you, however, is that it contains 19.3 grams of sugar in every 250ml serving. That makes it only marginally better (26.5g/250ml) than serving your kids a can of Coca-Cola for breakfast from a sugar standpoint.
Or even that box of Nutri-Grain, the one with all those healthy iron men on the packaging, that actually serves up a whopping 26.7 grams of sugar per 100 grams of cereal? Yet Nutri-Grain proudly wears a four-star health rating on the front of its box.
The World Health Organisation recommend no more than six teaspoons of sugar (25 grams) per day. Nutri-Grain on the front promotes itself as a “one of the highest Protein Cereals” but it contains more sugar than protein per serve!
The truth is, there’s almost no oversight on these products, and seemingly nobody to police these misleading claims made by the food giants.
Instead, we live in a world where billions of marketing dollars are spent on clever colours and tricky names used to disguise the nasties lurking in supposedly healthy food. Now imagine if all that money was instead spent on making food healthier, rather than simply looking healthier.
How many times have you seen a label that reads “30 per cent less sugar”, but never wondered; 30 per cent less than what? Or that something is “99 per cent fat-free”, but is for some reason missing the label that says “but packed to overflowing with sugar”.
* This article first appeared in the Daily Telegraph, 14 April 2019