Perhaps one of the most remarkable revelations of the Rio Olympics was the fact that the humble McDonald’s chicken nugget is one of Usain Bolt’s guilty pleasures. He was snapped tucking into a snack box immediately after claiming his ninth Olympic gold medal – his ‘triple triple’ – and has previously declared a fondness for KFC hot wings, Pringles crisps and a pint of Guinness.
On the face of it, this spectacular Olympian can indulge in the calories without them appearing round his waistline, and he will no doubt go on to inspire children around the world to run for Gold for years to come.
The UK though is currently facing quite a different race and it’s one that we need to win, as recent statistics claim that one in four children is now officially obese. The Government’s action plan is a two-pronged attack: in order to see a significant reduction in childhood obesity over the next 10 years, it is asking industry to cut the amount of sugar in food and drink and encouraging primary school children to eat more healthily and stay active.
‘Asking’? ‘Encouraging’? Isn’t that all a bit wishy washy? While the sugar tax is likely to stay, there’s also a hint that Brexit could trigger changes to labelling schemes – including perhaps Jamie Oliver’s ‘teaspoons of sugar’ idea. However, it doesn’t look as if there will be any bans on junk food promotions in supermarkets or restaurants, nor any further restrictions on advertising. Foodservice, retail and manufacturing firms will be ‘challenged’ to reduce sugar content by 20% by 2020, yet the Food and Drink Federation claims that the focus on a single ingredient is flawed and ‘unlikely to be technically practical’. School food authorities will be encouraged to adhere to new buying standards while schools themselves will be rated on their contribution to preventing obesity.
And what of the ‘staying active’ part of the plan? While we’re still basking in the reflected glory of our fantastic, inspirational and yes, healthy, Olympic athletes, wouldn’t this be the perfect time to elevate sport on the school curriculum and increase the amount of time spent simply being active? A pipe dream perhaps, but after all, maybe wasn’t that what all our great athletes started out with?