Life

How teenage activists are taking on the fight to eat healthy food

Teenagers from the campaign group Bite Back 2030 outline the best ways to make healthy eating the norm for their generation

Unhealthy food promotions are everywhere – but where are all the promotions on healthy food?

ALTHOUGH so many of today's children eat unhealthily and are overweight, it has always been adults who have highlighted the problem and shouted about tackling it. But not any more.

A new healthy eating campaign steered by a group of teenage activists, Bite Back 2030 (www.biteback2030.com), has just been launched in an effort to give all young people the opportunity to be healthy no matter where they live, and halve childhood obesity by 2030.

Christina Adane (15), co-chair of the Bite Back Youth Board, says: "I think we are exploited all the time and we don't even know it. We're an easy target. In the short-term, yeah sure we're happy eating unhealthy stuff, but that's going to knock years off our lifespan and cause so many health problems."

The Youth Board have written an open letter to influencers, which points out that children who saw popular vloggers with sugary and fatty snacks went on to eat 26 per cent more calories than those who didn't.

And it's not just the kids, of course, who find healthy food hard to come by – new research by Mintel found more than half (54 per cent) of parents of under-18s say it's difficult to ensure their child eats a well-balanced healthy diet.

The letter pleads: "Let's not sugar-coat this – junk food is being given a starring role in our minds by people like you, and our health is at risk as a result.

"We want [online influencers] to pledge to stop posting ads for fast food online. It's not right that you're paid to promote a lie when you have the power to tell the truth. We are asking you to use your influence to have a positive impact on thousands of young people; to use your stories to put healthy eating in the spotlight. We are asking you to use your feed to feed your followers healthier options. Together we can give future generations the best chance to live healthy and happy lives."

Adane adds: "We hope this letter will force people to think about how we are being targeted, and unlock and unleash the frustration the young people already involved in Bite Back 2030 are already feeling about how unhealthy food is always in the spotlight – energy that we can use to drive change. We want everyone who has influence to use it for good, and to start shining a light on the healthy stuff instead of junk."

Bite Back 2030 has many well-known ambassadors, including chef and campaigner Jamie Oliver, YouTube star Mia Fizz, A&E doctor and former Love Island contestant Dr Alex George, and footballer Chris Smalling, who says: "I think if people are more conscious on their platforms, then ultimately the bigger companies will follow suit. People have to start making stands because we have got that responsibility."

Here Bite Back 2030 shares five easy ways to give healthy food a starring role in young minds:

1. Shout loud about celebrities who say no to promoting junk food

New research commissioned by Bite Back 2030 found over two-thirds of children (70 per cent) would be enticed to try a new food or drink by brand marketing. Let's encourage people of influence to use their power for good, not for promoting junk.

2. Put healthier products in the spotlight in stores

How can we put healthier products centre stage? Supermarkets stack the odds against parents by putting appealing products at kids' eye level and have tempted kids with sweets and junk food at checkouts for years. And it's not just about location: unhealthy promotions are in the spotlight. Where are all the price promotions on healthy food? We want to see more of them.

Our high streets, supermarket shelves and school canteens are flooded with unhealthy options. As a result, 3.3 million children are now overweight, and the UK has the worst childhood obesity rates in western Europe. We can solve this – and close the floodgates – but we need to act now.

3. Make food labelling easy to understand

Introduce clear, consistent and mandatory labelling on food and drink. Diabetes UK found nine out of 10 people agreed traffic light nutrition labelling helps us make informed decisions about the food we buy. Why don't we have world-leading nutritional information on every product, to help and empower parents and kids alike? And why don't we have labelling fit for kids on kids' products, instead of using a system that's meant for adults?

4. Use cartoon characters for good

Stop targeting our little brothers and sisters – let's use the power of cartoon characters for good, and stop using them to draw attention to foods high in sugar, fat and salt. We want to see pester power being used as a force for good, by only using licensed characters to promote products that aren't high in saturated fat, sugar or salt.

Action on Sugar and Action on Salt found half of the 526 products featuring animated characters on their packets were so unhealthy they wouldn't be allowed to be advertised during children's TV! How is that even happening?

5. Better access to drinking water in public places and schools

Keep Britain Tidy has found more than three-quarters (78 per cent) of people want greater availability of free tap water in public spaces. How about more appealing water fountains on our high streets, in restaurants and public buildings and ensuring schools are 'water-only' in terms of drinks for pupils.

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