Northern Ireland’s young people were today branded the “junk food generation that can’t see beyond the burger box” as a new survey revealed a majority of them are ignorant to the long term consequences of eating badly.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) today published the findings of a UK-wide survey which found 73% of children are unaware that eating badly can risk your life.
Nearly half (45%) of all eight to 15-year-olds questioned thought the most dangerous side effects of eating junk food is weight gain, rotting teeth, getting spots or making them unpopular.
The heart charity released the new survey results as it launched its latest Food4Thought initiative and a new online game — the ‘Yoobot’ — to help children make healthier food choices.
Some 59% of adults and 26% of children in Northern Ireland are now classified as either obese or overweight. Latest predictions show that two thirds of all children will be overweight or obese by 2050.
The BHF research found that the majority of children are oblivious to the impact obesity could have on their lives with more than half (56%) predicting they will live to be over 80 and 11% believing they will live to more than 100.
BHF director of prevention and care, Mike Knapton, said: “Today’s junk food generation can’t see beyond the burger box. They are missing the fact that eating unhealthily can have dire consequences on their long-term health.
“The Yoobot is an innovative way for children to explore the effects of eating a diet of junk food. The clock is ticking on the obesity time bomb and it is now more important than ever for children to be educated enough to take control of their diets.”
BHF Northern Ireland unveiled the Yoobot in Belfast with the aim of helping youngsters understand the long-term effects of a poor diet.
Users create a mini version of themselves that they can personalise with an uploaded photograph. The choices they make for their Yoobot from the food it eats, to the exercise it does, have a direct impact upon the lifespan and wellbeing of their mini-me.
Aodan Curley (13) is on the Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner’s Youth Panel.
“Young people should be more aware of what they are eating. The Yoobot will help young people understand the dangers of a poor diet. I hope it will encourage manufacturers to take responsibility and include healthier ingredients and more clearly label their foods,” he said.
The Food4Thought campaign is backed by Children’s Commissioner Patricia Lewsley.
“Children have told me they are concerned about all aspects of their health and wellbeing. The Yoobots are an excellent way to reinforce to children and young people the consequences of a poor diet through innovative web technology,” she said.
l For further information, go to yoobot.co.uk.