Smorgasbord Health Column – The Obesity epidemic – Part One – Finding a point to intervene in the life cycle by Sally Cronin

The Obesity Epidemic – Finding the point in the life cycle to intervene.

As we continue to hear about the obesity problems of children, teens and adults, it is clear to me that it is a vicious circle without a definitive time in a human’s life to intercede and correct the course we seem to be on.

Obesity is one of those health issues that is complex with physical, mental and emotional elements. In my career over the last twenty years, I have worked with teenagers and young adults whose obesity can be laid firmly at the door of industrialised food, sugars and the fast food industry. However, it is not just about what they are eating today, but in many cases what their mother ate even before they were born, during her pregnancy and in the recommended (by health professionals included) new born formulas and baby foods.

At twenty-five years old, I found myself responsible for the nutritional health of 120 boys and girls (8-13) in a private school. This was over 40 years ago and the industrialised food industry was already well established. I had been cooking for my own business for the previous two years often preparing lunches for 100 hungry lunchtime customers.  On my arrival at the school, I found that because there had not been a cook in residence for a term, the majority of meals were frozen entrees that contained 10 portions. The container was placed on each table of students and it was served up by a prefect. There were some potatoes and a vegetable served with it but it was not the best option nutritionally. The headmaster and his wife recognised this, hence my arrival.

Within the month I had done deals with local farmers for fresh eggs and fruit, and was buying meats, chicken and fresh vegetables, with only the staples such as rice, flour, pasta etc being delivered in a packet. I also introduced the children to some more adult foods such as beef bourguignon and Coq au Vin.. which did lead to calls for ‘more of the sauce please’!

They all had a cooked breakfast each day as well as a bowl of porridge or weetabix. I got cooking 140 (with staff) fried eggs in six pans in 15 minutes, down to a fine art, at the same time as grilling 140 pieces of wholegrain toast,  Lunches were meat, chicken and fish on Fridays (with some sauces or gravy), with plenty of vegetables, and either rice, pasta or potatoes. There would be a hot pudding such as apple pie and custard. There was a high tea with sandwiches or beans on toast, or sardines etc, with cake and fruit. There was cocoa before they went to bed. I would finish the day with 10 – 20 staff cooked suppers.

I had the cook from scratch approach to food even then, and even more importantly, as far as the school bursar was concerned. I shaved £2,000 off the catering budget in the first term. Forty years ago that was a substantial amount of money and proves that even then, packaged food is not only nutritionally inadequate (particularly for growing children) but far more expensive than the cook from scratch approach.

So combined with my work as a nutritional therapist in the last twenty years, I can draw on 45 years experience of working with food and all age groups from pre-conception to 95, to witness the impact of nutrition on the body, and the diseases directly related to diet.

The list grows rapidly as research lays the cause of at least 75% of diseases at the door marked lifestyle.

When do you intervene in the life cycle, to counteract what is fast becoming a life threatening epidemic, and increasingly a huge burden on the health services?

When do you try to break the cycle?

It is actually too late to start at birth, since the food the mother has consumed prior to becoming pregnant, and during the nine months will have a lifelong impact on her child’s weight and health. ( I will cover fertility and pre-pregnancy diet later in the series)

If the mother to be is already overweight, consuming in excess of recommended daily intakes of sugar and unhealthy fats from industrially manufactured foods, immediately that she becomes pregnant, that will result in an unhealthy start to the fetal development.

During pregnancy, if the mother does not drastically reduce these two components of her diet, and introduce health alternatives such as good fats, plenty of fresh vegetables and some fruit, moderate carbohydrates and protein from lean meat, poultry, fish, and adequate vegetable sources, the baby will be born already addicted to sugars and undernourished.


Breastfeeding a baby is as natural as you can get, and for millions of years that was the norm. And immediately after birth is a critical phase, when the vital immune boosting Colostrum is produced by a new mother for the next 48 hours. This encourages the digestive system to begin functioning, kick starts the immune system to protect from viral and bacterial infections as well as providing essential nutrients.

Breastfeeding is now at its lowest in the UK for a number of reasons, including ‘expert’ insistence on getting a baby into a feeding and sleep routine as quickly as possible, rather than every two hours that the lower volume breast feeding requires. Also there is the social stigma of breastfeeding in public places. To be fair, it does require some discretion, but every woman should be able to breastfeed her baby when it is needed. Since that is usually every two hours, it is difficult to manage if you are outside of your home environment.

It used to be that babies would be breastfed until they were 18 months old, and in some cases older, especially if supplemental to a restricted access to food. Now it seems that six months is the average, with only 1 in 200 women breastfeeding their baby after a year old.

There are of course mother’s who cannot breastfeed physically, and this means feeding the baby with one of the many formulas on the market.

This is where the multi-billion baby food industry kicks in to take advantage of this reduction in providing a baby with its most natural food, and according to a recent report, if your baby was already addicted to sugars at birth, you can satisfy any cravings with sugar laden jars of pureed baby foods.  In addition many will contain the highly unhealthy corn syrup.

That combination of added sugar and corn syrup in baby formula is the number one cause of obesity in babies and children

‘Research by the World Health Organisation suggest there are an additional 124 million children and adolescents worldwide. While just under 1% of children and adolescents aged 5-19 were obese in 1975, more 124 million children and adolescents (6% of girls and 8% of boys) were obese in 2016′

These additives and other chemical elements such as preservatives, continue to be introduced into the diet when babies are weaned onto pureed foods and then semi-solids.

I am afraid that however many times it says on the tin of formula or on the jar of baby food that it is all natural, it does not necessarily mean healthy natural food that our baby will thrive on. The sugar began life as natural as did the corn sugar but they are mutated by the time they get into the food chain to toxic elements.

They do not have any place in a baby’s diet nor adults for that matter.

The trouble is that marketing ‘experts’ will tell you that you are safe feeding your baby their formula and semi-solids.. but what about the nutritional experts?

A good start was made in Europe when all sugar sweetened formulas were banned in 2009. There are now a more brands that are using lactose to sweeten and the number of organic brands of formula are on the increase. However, for many new mothers, especially those on a budget, the price of these healthier forumula’s is much higher than the highstreet brands.

Here is a post on organic brands, but I do suggest that you check them out the reviews of the products:

Homemade baby food

I know that immediately there are going to be issues of time and convenience brought up.. But having checked the cost of jars of baby food and their contents, I can say with certainty that you can produce a week’s worth of baby food, from scratch that is healthier and cheaper than any on the shelves, and in less time than it takes you to do the weekly shop!  More about that later in the post.

Parents are being ‘misled’ by baby food companies marketing sugar-packed baby meals and snacks as healthy, new report warns

Analysis of thousands of baby products showed high levels of added sugar
WHO Europe said it’s a danger for babies’ teeth and could lead to obesity
More than 30 per cent of calories in half of the products came from sugars
Sugars accounted for 70 per cent of the food calories in fruit purees

The World Health Organisation has called for a ban on added sugar in baby food and warned against ‘misleading’ health claims on labels.

Analysis of thousands of baby products in Europe, such as pouches and jars, revealed high levels of sugar across the board, even in savoury products.

It could cause baby teeth to rot and increase the risk of obesity and related diseases by giving the child a ‘sweet tooth’, the WHO warned.

Even though some sugars are naturally present in fruits and vegetables, it’s a ’cause of concern’ that more is added, a report said.

The organisation is one of many which have recently urged a wipe-out of added sugars and sweeteners in foods for children under three years of age.

You can read the rest of the post HERE

There are a number of sites that provide a step by step guide to weaning a baby from the bottle at six months but I notice that on many of them their first preference is fruit juice and then pureed fruit.

  • I would prefer to see this list vegetable led and you can make a clear vegetable soup by cooking carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, courgettes (zucchini)  and parsnips together, keeping the water they are cooked and sieving out the juice from the vegetables…don’t add salt or sugar. Then as the baby moves onto semi-solids you can puree the vegetables themselves. You can freeze in portions making enough for several days.
  • Avocados are excellent as a first food at six months as they contain healthy fats and a quarter of a medium avocado is great fist sized healthy addition to the baby’s diet.
  • If you do give your baby fruit juice try apple without any added sugar and the same with pureed apple.
  • Pears are also good to introduce as they are one of the least allergenic fruit.
  • Papaya and bananas are also easy to digest and bananas are useful to take with you when traveling as well as to ease any stomach upsets.
  • Baby porridge makes a good start to the day, and you can also introduce well cooked baby rice into the savoury dishes.
  • From seven months you can start to add some pureed chicken or cod.

I found this website which lists the top ten mother and baby sites including one that has some great baby food recipes:

Here is just one of the videos on Youtube where mothers share their organic recipes and tips for first baby foods and as you will see towards the end of the video  – the equivalent amount organic baby food in the supermarket works out at three times as much as the homemade, and despite being organic the shop bought will still have preservatives added. Uploaded by DoItOnaDimeFAMILY

If you are like me and of an age where pureed food might be an option in a few years!!! Then please pass this on to the younger generation who might help to turn around this tide of obesity that is sweeping our countries.

I am aware that many young mothers will still follow the path of using the cheapest formula and baby food options on the shelf through necessity, but I hope that education through the prenatal and new mother classes will help them discover the healthier and often cheaper options and how to give their babies a great start in life.

Next week – Breakfast clubs, School meals, Domestic Science and meals at home.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here:

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for stopping by… as always your feedback is welcomed.. thanks Sally.



41 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Health Column – The Obesity epidemic – Part One – Finding a point to intervene in the life cycle by Sally Cronin

  1. It bothers me that we seem to have to keep reinventing the wheel – especially with nutrition and with children’s nutrition. Fresh with as little processing a possible – the old farm diet – it’s better and cheaper.
    Surprised that breast feeding doesn’t seem to be encouraged more there. Where we are mothers are practically scorned and shunned if they don’t breastfeed – while most times it’s best to cover up a bit in public to be considerate, feeding an infant naturally is pretty common – pediatricians encourage it for at least a year for even working mothers (companies musts make accommodations/clean locations for moms at the office to pump if needed.)
    Yet I also know a few young moms who just don’t want to bother breast feeding – usually those are ones who rarely considered what they ate or drank before child was born. Sigh.
    Great post.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks very much and I agree about reinventing the wheel about this and so many other areas of our health. I have been banging on about Cook from Scratch with fresh produce for 45 years both in a work environment and as a writer, but I feel I am preaching to the choir because those who have the power to make a difference keep changing their minds and their expert opinion.. it is to the detriment of those they have responsibility for. And whilst they keep talking about how much a burden the elderly, especially those with dementia, will be on the economy in years to come, they should take on board that in the majority of cases dementia is a result of nutritional deficiency and lifestyle. thanks again.. Sally

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A great post, Sally..What bothers me greatly is the fact that governments know the cost of the health bills as do hospitals and trusts..But still, they make no effort to stem the tide…We know it would reduce many costs across the board and the result would be a healthier population…No one seems to want that. The same with breastfeeding it is natural and from experience not always easy…My first attempt only lasted 8 weeks and then I had mastitis which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Baby two I didn’t bother, Baby 3 and 4 I was back on track and successfully fed them until they were 8/9 months and ready for weaning and food…I also don’t believe in introducing food at to early an age. I also think some mothers fuel this ” you can’t breastfeed here” by not bothering to be discreet…It is easy to breastfeed, be discreet and I never had a problem …I will also add I had a great midwife and mother who helped me get started with breastfeeding…Will share Tuesday 🙂 Hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Carol.. and sometimes it is impossible to breast feed such as with mastitis, but today too there is this celebrity driven madness of getting your pre-baby body back in six weeks which seems to take precedence over breastfeeding and the baby’s health. Then many are handing their baby over at 6 weeks to a day care, whilst some do express milk, with 10 to 20 babies in their care, the move is made to formula for convenience. And the government makes some effort but it is no good shouting at people when they are several stone overweight, they need to intervene much earlier, and is where the difficulty lies, but anyway will work my way through the cycle and hopefully it will help some to make their own intervention in their own lives or those of their children. Hugs…♥


  3. This is such a relevant post, Sally. I wrote a short post about my recent cruise experience. I was so stressed for seeing more than half of the people on the ship are 3 or 4 times of my size. Many children and teenagers (they should be in school) were twice of my size. I feel so sorry for those kids.

    My daughter breastfed Autumn until she turned one-year-old. All of her girlfriends do the same. When they eat out in public, they just got a table in the corner of a restaurant. They have no problem using breastfeeding cover to drape over them.

    For any meals, we give Autumn vegetables first, then protein items, even fruits will come later because she loves the berries. She loves green beans and avocados. Even when I watched her all by myself for one week, I followed this food order.

    She never had “baby food.” As soon as she could chew, she ate what her parents ate, so basically fresh food. Or, my daughter made the food softer for her before she had many teeth. She now has a habit and enjoys eating with her and eating the same food.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I only breast fed Greg for three weeks. He cried so much because of his conditions that we didn’t know about and I thought it might be hunger. I was careful what I fed him though and we made most of his food ourselves. Michael was breast fed for a long time. He was so sick the pediatrician advised breast milk. She told me once he might have died if I hadn’t breast fed him for so long due to his lack of immunity.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I figured you may have seen it, but just in case 🙂 it’s too powerful a presentation to pass up.

        I’m curious: do you feel the optimal place to start is with adults or with children? What’s the right age to intercept?

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is difficult to know where to intervene but I feel that it should be pre-conception. I worked with couples who were preparing to become parents and they completed six months to a year of getting themselves fitter, healthier diet, reducing alcohol, stopping smoking and getting more exercise, depending on their start point. Major organs such as the liver regenerate within weeks provided there is no scarring. If there is a hormonal imbalance that can usually be improved with weight loss or gain, a nutritionally balanced diet that includes specific elements such as healthy fats, including cholesterol. In my mind that is the optimum place to start to five the foetus the best start in life. Very important that it is both parents. I will be covering fertility as part of the current series on the reproductive system. Sorry to ramble on..

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not at all, I find this topic fascinating. I’m trying to understand what differentiates the people, like the couples you mentioned, who are willing to embrace a different lifestyles from those who raise an eyebrow and say something like “that’s not what I always do”?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Living in the moment is great.. and most of us do when we are young.. 60 + is old and seems to far away… until you get there. They say hindsight is a wonderful thing.. and most of us also say, I wish I knew then what I know now! I actually got a great kick out of hearing that a couple were celebrating a pregnancy and when the baby was born healthy and safely.. and that their new lifestyle and diet were now for life.


  5. More wisdom from Dr. Sally. I don’t have children, but I know if I had, I would have definitely been making my own homemade baby food. It’s really amazing that our generation is still standing after some of the terrible habits – eating and otherwise that many mothers indulged in while carrying us. Reminds me of an episode from Mad Men when the pregnant wives would gather around for a hen session complete with cigarettes and martinis, lord only knows what they were eating. 🙂 ❤


  6. I used to blend our meat/veg dinners and freeze them in pots when I started weaning my babies. I never realised what the mother ate before pregnancy affected a baby so much, but it stands to reason that if a mother has a sugar addiction, then the baby will have it too. Some babies start off so disadvantaged – it’s such a shame.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – Jazz, Winter Soups, Chocolate, New books, reviews and funnies | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  8. Pingback: Healthy Eating…Starting at the beginning…Feeding Baby, TB 12 diet… | Retired? No one told me!

  9. Pingback: Smorgasbord Health Column – The Obesity epidemic – Part Two– Finding a point to intervene in the life cycle – 2 to 7 years old – Diet – by Sally Cronin | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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