Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuck shops

When I was at school (millennia ago, it seems!) there was no such thing as a ‘tuck’ shop. We either took a packed lunch from home, or ate a ‘proper’ cooked meal in the school cafeteria (I can still conjure up the smell!), and at break we were given 1/3 pint of milk. These days, every school seems to have its own tuck shop, staffed by volunteer mums.

I find these venues to be easy roads straight to unhealthy eating. The menu may include ‘toasted sarmies’ , hot dogs, pies (of dubious vintage) and Chelsea buns the size of a small pick-up truck! Other than these delicacies, there are inevitably sweets (candy), chocolates, cold drinks (sodas) and chips (crisps). And the poor child who doesn’t have tuck money is sometimes pitied, oftentimes ridiculed.

We don’t have a Jamie Oliver in South Africa, and our volunteer tuck shop mums don’t seem concerned about the sort of tuck their children are tucking into. So our children fill up on starch, fat, sugar and E-numbers at break, and more than likely go home to a sandwich or 2-minute noodle lunch! Did they eat a healthy breakfast? Do they get a decent evening meal? I’m willing to bet that many of them have take-aways – pizza, fried chicken, burger and chips – more than once a week! Do they even know what vegetables are? Oh, they may have a passing acquaintance with lettuce (1 leaf), tomato (1 slice) and raw onion, because those come on a burger. No wonder most children are squeamish when it’s time to go to Gran’s for Sunday lunch, and they are expected to eat all their vegetables (although in South Africa, Gran is probably going to have a braai (BBQ) anyway, and the veg can be sidestepped yet again.

And where’s the fruit, other than in juice form in a box?

Take a close look at what your children are eating on a daily basis. Are they developing healthy eating habits? Do they get the opportunity to make healthy food choices? You are the only example they have, and you are the only one who can educate them. Now. Before they become overweight and even more unhealthy.

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