Musing on vending machines and kid’s snacks

When I was a kid, the vending machines at the leisure centre were my saviour. But I have to admit that while walking through my local leisure centre the other day I was a bit shocked at the foods offered at their ‘greasy spoon’ canteen bar.

I’m not sure though how much I agree with the Heart Foundation’s call to ban snacks from every children’s leisure venue, in addition to the ban in schools (which started this September).

I suppose I was given healthy food at home by my parents and reasonably healthy food at school in the canteen every day. We just didn’t have loads of crisps or sweets or cakes in the house. Cooked meals were always nutritious and appetizing, with a good ol’ serving of carrots and peas, so a little treat now and again didn’t matter. How many times a week will children visit sports venues anyway?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I never ate junk food because I did, I just couldn’t find it in the kitchen cupboard. I had to hunt for it! Five or six years worth of pocket money was spent on crisps, sweets and fizzy drinks, but I’ve never been overweight. Yet today there is a worrying obesity epidemic among children.

I think the saving grace for me was that healthy home-cooked meal. We didn’t get takeaways. That was a luxury! (I think I experienced a Chinese takeaway three times before I turned 18 and I didn’t know KFC existed! McDonald’s however… did get a fair chunk of my pocket money.)

At home dinner and pudding was at about 5.30pm and then that was it… no nibbleys later on. The next meal was breakfast time. During the day, I did plenty of sports at school and lots of running around in the summer holidays or just after school before tea, so I was getting good exercise too.

I feel that while we have a responsibility to guide children to eat good food we can’t live in a nanny-state. It’s how you are trained to live that’s important, not what you buy out of a vending machine now and again. If vending machines do have to stock wholesome snacks then maybe it should be half healthy, half sweet shelf confectionery. There are plenty of handy fruit or nut bars out there with healthier bites and crisps aimed at kids. But do we really need to take away the chocolate treat altogether?

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