Watch the full discussion from Claire Byrne Live on Monday here:
I'm staring at two onions, a box of mushrooms, two tins of tomatoes, a tube of tomato purée and 750g of beef mince that may or may not be defrosted.
It’s at the end of a long day and the children are asleep but I know that I have to introduce all of those ingredients to each other at some point before I go to bed, if I don’t the risk of inviting a pizza into our house tomorrow soars.
This week, a Healthy Ireland survey found that 60% of us are overweight or obese. That’s some whopper of a statistic. Some people will say that the threshold for obesity is really quite low, or they may claim that they weigh quite heavy because of their unusually dense bones, but the truth is that we are not just getting fatter - we are officially fat.
Most people know all the advice - cut out the snacks and the treats and stop eating pastries and sugary cereals and most importantly, eat the food that you cook at home, not the stuff that the nice delivery man brings in foil trays or cardboard boxes, oozing with the oil of taste....and artery-clogging deliciousness.
This is all well and good, but do those well-meaning healthy eating gurus who dole out the advice really know what it’s like to work full-time, come home tired and then your children see you and they start to fight with each other for your attention. Meanwhile, the oven glares at you with a cold-eyed menace and the fridge is really bright when you open it because it’s pretty much empty as you haven’t had a chance to replenish it since the last big shop was gobbled up by your insatiable family.
We all have good intentions but life with a young family is hard and many of us simply don’t have the time or the energy, or the head space, to take care of the healthy eating bit in the way that we would like. Of course we want them to eat the best that we can give them, but often, life and the occasional ready meal, gets in the way.
A sobering piece of research from safefood in 2017 says that 85,000 children who are obese on the island of Ireland now, will die prematurely. One in four children are overweight and are likely to be when they are adults, leading to huge pressures on our health service and a massive financial burden on the state. Despite more than a million obese people in Ireland, the HSE still doesn’t recognise it as a disease and Ireland spends less on obesity treatment than any other EU state.
The problems associated with being overweight are many with the risk of chronic disease including cancer and heart disease greatly increased. But is it completely up to parents to sort this one out? For example, what a blessed relief it would be if you knew your child was getting their healthy, hot meal in school every day. That’d take some of the pressure off the time-poor parents who get most of the flack for not firing up the oven every day.
What is the role of supermarkets in all of this?
Since the first of November, my local supermarket has a wall of Christmas sweets inside the door on special offer and the best deals are to be had on processed meats, ready meals and sugar-laden sauces. Should they not be part of the solution here by offering healthy menus options and keeping the Christmas chocolates down the back where you have to seek them out to find them?
The truth is we all have a role to play - the individual, the corporate calorie-pushers and government.
I’m going to cook tomorrow’s dinner now with that line-up of ingredients still sitting unacquainted with each other on my kitchen worktop. But sometimes it feels like parents are shouldering too much of the healthy food burden - or do you feel that is just how it is when you are a parent? Do you think schools and the State should be doing more?
Irish chef and founder of Ballymaloe Darina Allen thinks so. She has made a film for us, calling for Home Economics to be made compulsory in the Leaving Cert because children are leaving school without any basic cooking skills like making toast!
Here is a clip of Darina from Monday's programme.
We teased all of this out on Claire Byrne Live on Monday night and I’d really like to hear your thoughts on keeping healthy in Ireland today. Do you cook everyday? Is healthy eating becoming harder to achieve in a fast food world? Do you feel supported in making healthy food choices for your family?
Let us know and be part of our conversation.