Advent calendars adding to the childhood obesity crisis, warns TV's Dr Eva

Chocolate Advent calendars can have a serious effect on children’s health, a leading doctor has claimed.

Eating just one of the chocolates, no matter how small, can mean up to 100 calories, weight loss specialist and celebrity Dr Eva Orsmond said.

The former ‘Operation Transformation’ doctor and director of Orsmond Clinics, which specialise in the treatment of diabetes, weight loss and obesity, said: “Even the tiniest of these calendars can have a huge effect on the health of adults and children especially.

“Children are being allowed and encouraged to develop bad eating habits which could last well into their adult years. The chocolate calories are empty energy and provide little nutritional value.

“The truth is, the amount of calories in them varies and people don’t seem to realise that. By giving children chocolate at such a young age, in a gimmicky way like that, leads them to developing bad habits.

“It depends on the size and the type of chocolate, and can contain anything up to hundreds of grams of sugar, the equivalent of several chocolate bars. If we are serious about battling childhood obesity we really need to be careful about Advent calendars. Why does every celebration involving children have to centre around heavily calorie-laden treats?

“Sweet treats seem to be non-stop for children these days and are focused around school breaks such as Christmas, Easter and Halloween for instance. They all blend into non-stop chocolate,” said Dr Orsmond. “I’m truly not trying to be a ‘bah humbug’ about this over the festive period and, yes, we can include chocolate as a part of a healthy diet, but it’s really about what else we’re eating.

“People need to realise most of their excess weight goes to their abdominal area, especially over Christmas which is filled with tempting rich food and that’s not good for overall health. Children and adults have got to work out what other things they’re eating like plum pudding, cakes, sweets, lots of carbohydrates and soft and alcoholic drinks. Keeping up a healthy balance is vital, as well as being aware of foods you’re eating that you usually wouldn’t. I’m not saying the calendars should be totally banned but they really need to be used in moderation.”

Originally from Finland, but living in Ireland for almost 20 years, Dr Orsmond said children in her home country are weighed continually in school to keep their weight in check.

“It is the cheapest way to increase awareness and the first step to prevention on weight gain. Here, it could be done with medical personnel and kept confidential,” she said. “If you started doing that for children, they will bring the message home and influence the adults.”

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