It sounds like a story we left behind in the 1920s, but according to new research the number of children suffering from rickets has jumped by more than double in recent years.
Rickets!? It seems extraordinary that children could be so beset by an ailment that is so easily avoided. What next - a national outbreak of scurvy?
Rickets, which leads to brittle or deformity of the bones, is caused by a lack of vitamin D in the diet. Bow legs in young children are a typically seen result.
Vitamin D is found in oily fish, dairy products and dark green vegetables such as broccoli and rocket. It is also produced by the body as a result of direct exposure to sunlight.
But if the research is to be believed, then it is clear that children are not being fed nearly enough food that is rich in vitamin D And coating them in factor 50 when they venture outside during the summer is adding to the problem.
The well-known company that commissioned the report into rickets is in the business of making breakfast cereal. It also announced that it is adding vitamin D to its breakfast cereal to help children avoid the plight of rickets, which is thoughtful.
The tragedy of this situation is that no child would suffer from rickets if they were fed a balanced diet.
But so many people are so time poor, there is a tendency to opt for the same narrow group of foods that we know the kids will eat. A lack of nutritional awareness and rapidly rising food costs mean that too many parents are pushed into providing cheap processed meals for their children.
This comment is not aimed at breakfast cereal manufacturers. Fortifying foods with Vitamin D certainly has its place, but we would be much better advised to encourage people to eat a balanced and varied diet instead.
It is not hard or expensive, after all, to boil an egg for breakfast. Or to pour milk into a glass.
But we seem to be accepting that children living in 2011 are no more likely to get a better diet than their counterparts in 1921.
And again, this next comment is not aimed in any specific direction, but we have to be very careful about taking nutritional advice from any company that has a vested interest in selling processed foods to children.
The joy of food comes from eating a wide a variety of flavours as possible and experiencing new and exciting meals. I am not going to lecture people about what they should or shouldn't eat or provide for their children. But anyone who puts the same things in their supermarket trolley every week is depriving themselves of a world of different tastes.
I have included quick and easy recipe for a vitamin D rich sandwich below.
Tuna Nicoise Sandwich
This recipe makes 4 sandwiches
2 cans tuna in sunflower oil, drained and broken up into small chunks
4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
2tsp capers, rinsed, dried and roughly chopped
1 heaped tablespoon good quality mayonnaise
4 grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf of brown or white bread,
60g good quality unsalted butter
1 heaped tablespoon of stoned and roughly chopped black Kalamata olives
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
4 medium hard boiled eggs, shelled and sliced
½ peeled and thinly sliced red onion
1 handful of watercress leaves
1) In a bowl, mix the tuna, anchovies, capers, mayonnaise and black pepper together.
2) Cut 8 slices of bread and lightly butter.
3) For each sandwich, spread 1 tablespoon of tuna mix onto the bottom slice of bread.
4) Sprinkle the tuna with some chopped black olives, then arrange the tomato slices, followed by the sliced egg and a sprinkling of red onion. Lastly top the filling with baby salad leaves and cover with the top slice of bread.
5) Slice the sandwiches on the diagonal and enjoy!
Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne is the Founder of Genius Foods, the UK's leading gluten-free company. www.geniusglutenfree.com
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