Education is key to tackling the sugar crisis

The rise in the popularity of sharing ‘food porn’ – often including cheese-pulls (from an overloaded toastie, pizza or plate of chips), cookie dough, or gallons of chocolate sauce – can be seen on any social media feed indiscriminately. Freakshakes are part of this modern trend. Originating in Australia, these milkshakes have migrated across the world to the UK partly due to their appealing aesthetic. Consisting of cakes, sweets, ice cream, whipped cream, sprinkles and various other toppings, freakshakes are a concoction of multiple high sugar, high calorie snacks all in one glass.

Therefore, it is no wonder they have attracted negative attention from multiple organisations including the campaign group Action on Sugar who are calling for them to be banned. A survey done by the group found that freakshakes in chain restaurants such as Toby Carvery can include up to 39 teaspoons of sugar and 1,280 calories. This contains over half the recommended calories for adults and goes way beyond the recommended sugar content. This in itself is troubling; however, as these shakes appeal mostly to children and teenagers, these figures are grotesquely high and worrying.

The issue of unhealthily high sugar and calorie levels in food and drink goes beyond the recent freakshake phenomenon, increasingly observed in daily groceries. One recent case is the sugar tax targeting fizzy drinks. Again frequently consumed by children, fizzy drinks are a large contributor to a multitude of health problems such as tooth decay and most notably, obesity. Government statistics show that nearly a third of children aged two to 15 are obese, and 65 per cent of adults are either overweight or obese. This is causing a huge stress on the health services and is also affecting our lifestyle.

Yet the increasing intensity of recent legislation involving public health can be seen as concerning, indicative of the growth of the ‘nanny state’. It raises the greater question as to whether the government is becoming too involved in, and dictatorial, of our lifestyle choices.

In the UK, where being overweight is becoming the norm, the main problem is how to tackle this crisis. Taxing goods with high sugar and calorie counts means they may become more expensive – but are still affordable. Therefore, tax is not necessarily preventative. The traffic light system on packaging also informs people of the levels of sugar, fat, and salt in food (red is high, amber medium and green low) but again may not discourage consumption of unhealthy options.

The key to a maintained awareness of healthy food choices is education. By teaching children about the importance of a balanced diet, consciousness surrounding food choices can be ingrained. The five a day campaign is an example of a successful social movement towards eating more fruit and vegetables. However, this needs to be paired with campaigns that equally create movement away from sugar and calorie high snacks like freakshakes in order to create a more widespread and lasting impact.

 

Image: Shardayyy via Flickr

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