Getting people to eat more healthily will not be easy

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Life, you could say, is almost too good for many people in Northern Ireland when it comes to food.

While there are of course many people in the Province who have a bad financial position, and even in some instances are reliant on food banks, there are many more people who eat luxuriously.

Hypermarkets do remarkable deals on pre-made meals and other food treats. It is possible to fill a supermarket trolley for a relatively small amount of money.

Many people, even in disadvantaged areas, regularly buy takeaway meals from fast food outlets.

And restaurants in the Province mostly did a bustling trade during much of the financial downturn.

But there is a price to be paid for all this eating, some of it unhealthy in terms of ingredients, and some of it made of good ingredients but unhealthy in terms of excess portions.

Safefood has just released a report saying that 70 per cent of men are overweight or obese, and that men generally pay less attention to their diet than women.

But the figure for women is hardly encouraging: a clear majority, 57 per cent, are overweight or obese.

According to the research, the fact that women are more likely to be skilled in cooking makes it harder for men to eat well.

There is even a school of thought that humans are eating so much it will begin to reduce lifespans, after more than a century in which average ages at death have risen relentlessly.

Doing something about this excess eating will not be easy.

Almost everyone who recently enjoyed a sumptuous Christmas meal will understand the temptation to over-indulge.

Regulation that interferes with the freedom to buy at will at supermarkets , regardless of ingredients, will not be popular.

Educating children about the dangers is an obvious tactic to cut obesity, but that won’t be easy either. The appalling scenes at schools, when parents passed chips to their children when the chef Jamie Oliver tried to introduce healthier meals, showed the resistance to healthy eating.