Issues for youth
Last year, the Eating Better Alliance commissioned research to find out if eating habits were changing amongst teenagers. Over 60% of the 11-18 year olds surveyed said that climate change was one of their most important issues.
This ranked higher than Brexit. Also, 25% of the 18-year-olds surveyed categorised themselves as vegetarians or vegans. But, the research also showed that many young people feel limited in their ability to actually choose what they eat.
Almost a third of those surveyed said they did want to eat less meat, and that they wanted more meat-free options in school canteens and didn’t have any say on food shopping at home.
Even with incredible initiatives like the public sector’s #20%LessMeat pledge, we still have work to do. We’ve even seen parental backlash when caterers reveal meal swap successes.
Likewise, although many professional caterers support the changes to make their meals healthier, more planet-friendly yet equally or tastier, implementation can be a hard sell. Why? Simply because change can be unnerving. We’re programmed to stick to what we know.
One issue lies with the nutritional guidance we are given. Of course, doctors do what they think is best based on their training and experience. But nutritional training accounts for just around 20 hours of total study for medical students.
That’s 20 hours in total across 5 years of study. This is despite the fact nutrition and diet are also the main cause of lifestyle diseases, like obesity, type 2 diabetes, some types of heart disease and others.
There exists a wealth of data that shows that following a plant-based whole food diet not only tackles diseases like this, it can actually reverse them too.
Cigarette companies in the 1950s proclaimed ‘More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette’, or advised smoking is actually good for the throat. In fact, it took thousands of scientific papers that linked smoking to cancer before the surgeon general in the USA publicly confirmed the link. vegan child
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard someone say “I went vegetarian or vegan for a bit, but I didn’t feel good so the doctor told me to eat meat again”. How can we expect a doctor who has barely been trained on nutrition (and who likely eats meat) to do anything other than ‘prescribe’ what they know?
Fortunately, times appear to be changing on the medical front, too. Recently, Plant Based Health Professionals UK gathered signatures from over 200 NHS doctors urging the UK government to promote plant based diets.
There’s a final factor – one that is on everyone’s minds now: the global food system. Since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, an increasing number of experts have spoken out about why our current food system causes pandemics.
Deforestation brings humans and wildlife into closer proximity and ‘factory farms’ create high density single species environments that are so unnatural they can act as a catalyst for viruses. In fact, seemingly all recent pandemics came from human/animal interaction, including HIV, Ebola, Avian Flu (H5N1), Swine Flu (H1N1) and now COVID-19.
Our consumption choices affect our health, more so than just calories and fat content. The new vegan and meat reduction movement isn’t a fad. It’s not about serving those with ‘special’ dietary requirements.
It’s about acknowledging an educated and informed generation. It’s time to ride the wave, not fight it.