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Some lunchbox favourites can be high in sugar and salt

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The debate is now closed but a selection of your views are published below.

Panorama: What's Really in Our Kids' Food? was broadcast on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday, 26 January 2010.


I'm a struggling unemployed student single mum of 3 and as much as I try to give my children something healthy the government needs to realise that the food that is really rubbish for us which in theory is garbage is cheaper then the good food and everyone is always trying to keep their budgets to a minimum. I know I can't actually do a food shop and fill a trolley because I just don't have the money and just get dinners on a daily basis and get the cheapest I can. Maybe the government should bring back a ration system I know then we wouldn't be an obese country we would actually lose weight instead of gaining weight and in turn children would learn to eat healthier because the fat food wouldn't be around.

- Tania Ede

Annabel Karmel has completely alienated me. I have 2 of her books which I have found useful, but she doesn't seem to be sticking to this in her own range of ready meals. Her deeply condescending comments about "educated parents" knowing what the RDA for the children is, had my blood pressure rising. She's already made a mint selling her homemade food books and she should stop there as making meals on a more commercial basis was exactly what she was trying to counteract.

- Nicky Cosford

I was appalled by the sexist slant of this programme. "Two thirds of mums admit they never cook a meal from scratch". Did anyone bother ask the dads? This type of statement reinforces traditional, sexist gender roles. I would have hoped the BBC to do better.

- Maite

If parents want to be sure their children will 'accept' foods that don't have added salt or sugar, then baby-led weaning is a brilliant way to introduce the first solid foods. A six-month-old baby who can sit up unaided will happily take pieces of plain steamed vegetables to eat. No purees, no hard work. This is cost-effective when feeding a family, and you know exactly what your child is eating. I have done this with my daughter and at fourteen months she eats a balanced, healthy diet. It's so sad that some toddlers are being given ready meals, whether or not they have a famous name on the front I think they need to be treated with a good deal of suspicion.

- Joy Wilkinson

A little one-sided with no in-depth research on the comparatives also who feeds their child a ready meal for every meal a balanced diet is a balanced diet a little more here a little less there.

- Alistair Kent

This programme highlighted what we're all doing wrong but didn't really give parents any practical advise on what we should be giving our children or where to find this information? Where can you find the daily recommended amounts for salt, sugar, fat, carbohydrate, zinc, iron etc?

- Anna

I would fully support any guidance given to early years nurseries to improve the quality of children's diets. I teach child studies to 16-19 year olds who are training to be childcare practitioners and I am constantly horrified by their own poor diets and lack of knowledge about healthy food.

- Pam Rieley

This was a mixed up report. The presenter kept going on about the problems getting a balanced diet for toddlers, the next item was the lady nutritionist saying you don't need toddler milk because if they have a perfectly balanced diet they do not need it. If 90% of toddlers don't get a balanced diet this woman does not make sense in the real world.

- Robert

Lovely programme, a bit scary though. As a mother of a 2-year old I am quite obsessed by feeding her healthy and nutritionally-balanced food only. I always cook from scratch, use organic ingredients only, and never give her any proceed food. But... she joined our local nursery a few month ago, and I've been shocked by the food she's been served. No morning snack to start with, meat and fish is a "treat" in a form of "bits" in a pasta and not more than twice a week, fish fingers, processed baked potatoes and baked beans from a can is a usual lunch meal (when they give them a break from the pasta and spaghetti...). On their Christmas party when I asked what treats to bring for the children, the manager told me - anything you want; parents usually bring mince pies or cakes! I am aware of how unhealthy that is, but my question and big worry is: how do I communicate my concerns with the nursery?

- GreenKiddie.co.uk

We have an almost 9 month old daughter and when looking into weaning her have been totally shocked at many parents lack of knowledge about what they feed their babies & children. We've just set up a blog about our experiences doing baby led weaning and thought you or other viewers might find it useful as a way to start eating healthily from the early days - www.yummity.co.uk. Thanks for a very interesting programme!

- Emily Christy

I found this programme very interesting and it supported my own concerns re children's diets. I think it would also have been beneficial to discuss the diets of even younger children including the use of artificial/breast feeding as there is evidence that shows that increased rates of obesity can be traced right back to this stage.

- S Duncan

I have a son of 5 and a daughter of 21 months and was very interested in this programme. I was disappointed that there were no alternatives suggested, for example a child's yoghurt is full of sugar - the alternative ? Not enough zinc in food - solution? I can and will look these thing up myself but would have been nice if you finished your programme with what we should be doing, not just what we shouldn't. Well done for a good show though, and about time someone questioned Annabel Karmel.

- Jenny Barnett

I really believe that the problem lies with the cookery lessons in secondary schools, in my time at one I learnt to cook fruit salad and honey oat bars! the problem is people can't cook any more. I love cooking and baking, I cook a meal every night for my children, it's just about planning ahead. I work a 70 hour week and am a single mum, but my children have a proper dinner every night. I was upset that you slated Annabel as she is one of the only people that has written a book to help parents, and perhaps it should of been more about getting people to cook for themselves. Salt is a flavour enhancer, which teaches older children to taste, better than artificial flavourings in my book.

- Luisa Ead

It is very sad that many parents spent money on ready made meals for their children. My son is 16. I always made his meals and when he was baby, mashed his food. I work in super market. Some parents amount of money they spent on alcohol, do not bother to spend money for their kids. I see it with my own eyes.

- Forouz Ford

Thanks for another interesting programme but I feel that some of the statistics were being bandied around without much care for quality reporting. "More than two thirds of mums in a recent online poll said they never cooked meals from scratch". One's initial reaction is of course "crikey" or similar, but then one needs to ask "which online poll? Who were the subjects?" I tried to find the poll mentioned and was immediately finding stats from all over the internet with wildly differing results. One report claimed that "86% of parents claim to cook entirely, or mostly from scratch every evening". The truth is that neither of these stats are of any use without more detail about nature of the poll. There was much useful information in the Panorama report but to use overly inflammatory stats to make an important point only serves to undermine the message. A little more care and a little less drama please.

- Tim Simpson

I am a mother of one Lilly who is seven months, i have recently started weaning Lilly i prepare all her food with the best fresh fruit and veg I can afford. But like most parents i introduced recently things like rusk and yogurts i checked labels and found the information confusing, i enjoyed your show and feel the information was given a lot more clearer to me but i am really disappointed that parents like myself who do try to offer their child a healthy diet are being misled by the manufacturers of these so called healthy baby products. i feel that there should be a clear standard label for all food products sold in UK especially those for babies.

- Jenna Donald

Why, oh WHY, was breastfeeding not mentioned when comparing formula milk against cows milk? Why is it assumed that mothers switch from formula at 1 year old to a follow on milk or cows milk? Many mothers continue to offer breast milk which is by far the best for our children, and you totally missed the chance to point out the benefits of breastfeeding for our children's health. This would have been a fabulous opportunity to promote breastfeeding as a normal and natural thing, instead it is sidelined and the formula milks are given free advertising. D'oh!!! Good one Panorama!

- Karen Law

I'm not sure how the BBC can consider itself to be unbiased when it offers up programmes like tonight's Panorama, which was little short of a witch-hunt with Annabel Karmel as the target. What was not made clear was that parents who feed their children processed foods of any kind are potentially offering them a far less healthy diet than one based on fresh home-cooked food. However that said, with the crazy pace of life most of us contend with, feeding your child processed foods designed for kids, such as those manufactured in Annabel Karmel's name, is at the very least better than serving up processed food designed for adult consumption. My kids grew up on Annabel's recipes. Neither are overweight, and both have good, healthy and wide-ranging tastes in food. I do not think that programmes like this do any favours to either the audience or the reputation of the BBC.

- Justine

I have a 16 month old and am expecting my second. I was stunned by the show and the evidence to put towards many adjustments I need to make with my son diet. I am thankful to PANORAMA for helping me to see that advertisers cannot be trusted and showing me the way to provide the best start for my kids.

- Samantha Martin

I have to say I was in tears by the end of this programme - I honestly thought I was one of those (to quote Ms Karmel) 'educated' parents, who like millions of other parents who work etc were doing the best for their children - PLEASE can we and the nurseries our children go to get more readily available advice from the Government to help us combat the obesity problem.

- Lindsay Doyle-Fisher

I feel you unfairly portrayed Annabel Karmel in your programme and focused only her ready meals. Her recipe books are inspirational for weaning your child. Without them I would have been clueless. All her recipes are great for helping parents cook healthy food from scratch. It also helps you know when to introduce certain foods. You hardly mentioned this in your programme. You don't even have to buy her books as her website has numerous recipes for free.

- Stephanie Slade

There was not one obese child on the show, which documented what he/she would eat. Also, there was no representation of other classes. This was a middle class perspective displaying middle class paranoia.

- Nicholas Georgiou

I believe that children should eat a healthy rounded diet. However programmes and education initiatives surely need to target those people who are actually at risk from the issues you talk about. I have three children none of whom are obese, they eat healthily but I also believe they deserve treats. Today my son came home from school after a discussion about healthy eating informing me that mashed potatoes are unhealthy. He was clearly confused but I think his confusion is compounded by the constant bombardment about what to eat or what not to eat. With all this focus on obesity or in essence getting FAT, are we not teaching our children to be obsessive about food, an equally damaging concern to those not obese in any way. This could result in a future generation of anorexics instead of obese children.

- Paula Manning

Just watched tonight's programme, and am unhappy at the coverage shown of Annabel Karmel. It was predominantly negative I felt, focusing on the sugar and salt content in her ready meals. Here is a woman responsible for attempting to improve our children's nutrition through her excellent cookery books and all the Panorama programme focused on was picking holes in her ready meal manufacturing. Funny to have witnessed the presenter attempting to grill Annabel Karmel over 1/3 RDA of salt in 1 meal, and then tell us that she is letting her own child eat chocolate and crisps. The BBC have wasted a great opportunity to cover an important subject.

- Neil Cozens

I found your programme very unhelpful. It said that parents do not know what is a healthy snack, but did not make any suggestions. We are told that it is good to concentrate on fruit and veg, but that fat and carbs are good - what fat and carbs? You said that the food diaries were interesting but we did not hear anything that was in the food diaries? I feed my girls very healthy food, but am now totally confused? I also cook mainly home cooked food, but am now questioning these, as I use things like tinned tomatoes? It would have been more helpful with packed lunches to give an example of a healthy packed lunch for a 2/3 year old?

- Georgina Nott

I thought the programme was interesting and informative. This programme emphasised that a balanced diet for toddlers is important. I have a 15 month child and have used Annabel Karmel's recipe books which have been very helpful and my baby loves her recipe suggestions. I haven't bought ready meals as I am a fairly organised person so haven't had the need to do so. I do think packaging should state the recommended daily salt intake for toddlers and was disappointed to hear that ready meals such as AK do not carry this information. It is so important that we get the early years right and thanks to Panorama for tackling an area where there has been little publicity.

- Marisa

If people don't know something about nutrition, like what foods contain Zinc, it's easy to find out. Just search it on the internet and stop acting so pathetic. It's easy to find numerous recipes for healthy meals, I do it all the time on a student budget so what makes these people incapable of doing it?

- David Pearson

As a charity and social enterprise the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) runs 19 community nurseries in poor areas of London, we have always been focused on good home cooked seasonal food as it sustains children's development. We decided to take action having become increasingly dismayed at the dissemination of sometimes poor and oft times confusing information as well as being inspected by people who are not overly confident about children's nutritional needs. Many adults wanted children eating foods imbalanced in fat and carbohydrates, a risk I was worried about given the nature of many of the home lives the children experienced. As a result we have started to write the national qualifications for chefs working in the Early Years as we believe that it has to start very young. It has led to a great interest from across the sector as nurseries genuinely want to get it right for children and good quality settings take a pride in their food. At LEYF we serve fish! Twice a week, organic milk because of the link with higher omega three and we now procure our food from a farm in Kent so it is Fresher by Miles. We have upgraded our training and hope that the progress we make will make a significant difference to all children attending nursery. It certainly has raised awareness of the role of the chef and children plan menus with chefs now and its surprisingly positive what they choose to eat. Not a trace of a chicken nugget.

- June O'Sullivan



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