UK snacking nation bursting at the seams

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The UK has an obsession with weight loss television programs as every night we are bombarded with show’s such as Your Are What You Eat, Diet Doctors and Jamie’s School Dinners, but are they having an effect?

Nearly half of all men and one third of women in the UK are currently said to be overweight with 17% of men and 21% of women officially classified as obese.

The nation’s growth in physical size has spawned a huge growth in the slimming industry with new branded slimming products, low-fat foods, gyms and other weight loss centres. We are dieting like never before, but still getting fatter.

Dot Bush, a WeightWatchers leader in Huddersfield for nearly four years has said that although many of her members arrive at her meetings in Shepley, Holmfirth and Almondbury fearing that their weight is becoming a serious health concern, their appearance is also a major influence on the desire to slim down.

“People absolutely love it when they lose weight and look better. When you look better you automatically feel healthier,” she said. “They say to me that they didn’t realise how expensive it was going to be to lose weight – because of all the clothes shopping that they do. But they think it’s just fantastic,” she said.

Current government advice for losing weight is to adopt a sensible healthy diet and increase levels of activity.

“You have to fill up on the healthy stuff and leave the fatty, sugary, salty snacks alone. And you need to exercise because exercise changes your shape and firms everything up,” explained Dot.

No-one should aim to lose more than two pounds a week, although initial weight loss might be more. The long-term aim is to change eating habits and keep the weight off.

Most modern slimming organisations now offer diet plans that work on this basis.

But a look at the types of foods that are readily available and cheap on our supermarket shelves and at schools proves where the problems begin.

Jamie’s school dinner came to our screen last year with huge impact, but not everyone was cooking for joy.

With the introduction of healthier school dinners in UK schools, some parents saw the opportunity to start business selling fast food through school fences.

Parents the South Yorkshire school, Rawmarsh Comprehensive, have recently have actually held a meeting with its deputy head teacher opposing the introduction of healthy meals in schools.

The parents argue that pupils were not being given enough time or choice for their meals. Funnily enough, their idea of an alternative is ‘fresh’ fish and chips.

The parents had complained about the quality of the new healthy school meals and the fact students are not allowed out of the school grounds at lunchtime.

Meanwhile, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has unveiled a new advertising campaign aimed at exposing the health risked linked with children eating too many crisps.

Research revealed that one in five kids are consuming at least nine litres of oil a year crunching on two or more packets a day, while almost half the UK’s children are ‘drinking’ almost five litres of cooking oil every year.

The campaign is aimed at exposing the hidden salt, fat and sugar in common foods so children can better understand the potential damage to their hearts and overall health.

A typical packet of crisps, marketed as a lunchbox snack, contains almost two and half tea spoons of oil and in a larger pack of 50g, up to three and a half teaspoons.

BHF medical director Professor Peter Weissberg said, “The BHF believes having a daily dose of such a high-fat, nutritionally poor product is a threat to children’s long-term health.”

Rising rates of childhood obesity and cases of type two diabetes paint a particularly grim picture for the future. This campaign is about challenging our children about what’s lurking in their snacks, takeaways and ready meals. It’s about making these foods the exception rather than the rule.”

Further figures from the latest Mintel report highlight the UK ’s obsession with snacking revealing that as a nation, the UK eats through a tonne of crisps every three minutes.

Obesity already costs the economy £2bn a year, and kills 30,000 people a year prematurely, according to the National Audit Office. If the alarming statistics continue to rise, three-quarters of the UK population could be overweight within the next 10-15 years and obesity could overtake smoking as Britain ‘s top preventable killer.