Global obesity is rising. Forty years ago, 1 in 40 American children were considered obese; today it’s 1 in 4 and life expectancy is declining because of the over-consumption of empty calories.
Here in the UK the statistics aren’t much better. An NHS study in England showed in 2015/16, over 1 in 5 children in Reception (first year of school) and over 1 in 3 in Year 6 were obese or overweight.
The countries with the healthiest diets in the world (as identified by a 2015 Cambridge University study published in The Lancet) contrast dramatically with the United States. While the nine African countries in the top 10 have diets full of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and grains, shockingly vegetables make up only 1% of a typical American diet.
Shocked by these facts, California-based photographer Gregg Segal went searching for regions where families eat healthier home-cooked meals, focusing on children because eating habits are often formed when we’re young.
Travelling the world for the last two years, Segal has been asking children to keep a diary of everything they eat over a week. At the end of the week, he takes a portrait of each child surrounded by their week of food.
These glorious, insightful photos made me think a lot about what my fussy six-year-old eats during a week, and more specifically how many junk snacks he gets through. When Nicholas was a toddler I was really strict about his diet, not letting him have salt or oil for his whole first year of weaning and certainly not refined sugars. What kind of mother would I have been otherwise, I thought!
Then the dreaded fussy stage set in, a stage I was not prepared for and stuck my head in the sand about for a rather long time. I was relieved whenever pretty much any type of food made its way to his tummy. Even now he can still be a stressful fusspot when he’s not given his limited range of preferred meals, and when mummy’s tired or sick of cooking it can be easy not to choose the healthiest of options. Yep, more reasons to feel guilty about my parenting skills.
Anyway, this photography project definitely got me thinking about my child’s diet and how to make it better. Has anyone gotten their kids to keep a food diary? Healthy eating is a topic they’ve covered at school so a food diary could link into that. Or should we focus on setting the best example we can for our children?
Read Time’s feature on Gregg Segal’s Daily Bread project and see more portraits on his website.
Do you feel you set a good example for your kids when it comes to eating healthily?
Would you try keeping a food diary with your kids?