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Opinion: If you are planning on passing off your unwanted junk food as presents - stop!

With the majority of Irish adults overweight and children’s tooth decay on the rise, its time to think about the real cost giving sugary gifts, writes Mary McCarthy.

Mary McCarthy

IT’S NOW HALFWAY through January but I bet there are still biscuits and chocolates lingering around your house.

And I bet you plan to recycle them at a book club or a brunch any day now.

But with the majority of Irish adults overweight and children’s tooth decay on the rise – it’s time to think about the real cost of that sugar-loaded gift.

I have four kids and crazy dentist bills. I do my utmost to provide a healthy diet but I am regularly torpedoed by visitors laden with “treats for the kids”. Do they not know our life is one round of yellow and pink Lego and unicorn birthday cake?

It’s really difficult to show up empty-handed but it’s likely your host will thank you for it.

I received an email last week begging all book club members not to bring anything that evening. At first, I was mildly annoyed that I couldn’t shift the box of Milk Tray I had earmarked, but on reflection, I had to agree.

Being a barrister, my friend’s email was extremely persuasive. Her reasons included the fact that she will end up eating the chocolates in low moments herself, the kids will plague her asking if they can open the biscuits that she can’t bring herself to chuck out, she has enough dodgy wine already and there are selection boxes still hidden in the shed.

The message was clear – don’t waste time and money dashing to the shops for stuff nobody wants and don’t dare offload the sugary trash you already have on me.

The latest Healthy Ireland survey showed that 62% of Irish adults are overweight and the Irish Dental Association estimates that the HSE does around 10,000 tooth extractions under general anaesthetic annually on kids. That’s a lot of tooth decay and weight gain that can’t get shifted in Ireland today.

The diet industry in the US alone is worth over €50 billion annually. Look around at your own colleagues, friends and family and see how many are trying and failing to eat better.

Surely boxes of unwanted biscuits sniffing around the house until March is not what most of us need. Nobody wants to waste food but sometimes you need to throw out all that bad stuff and just start afresh. 

We all like a treat but let it be one we choose ourselves – a dessert when eating with friends or a shared slice of cake over a gossip. And not just bingeing on stuff at home because it’s there.

So try it next time – just go along empty handed with a bright smile.

If you must bring something – why not turn up with ripe mangoes or a fresh pineapple? Better still what about some flashy nail polish or a decent face mask? Just ask any teacher would they prefer a pressie of chocolates or a bottle of olive oil and you’ll have your answer.

You could bring good quality coffee or tea, flowers, a decent book, art materials for the kids. Something you would welcome into your own house and not just leftover trash food that you are looking to shift on – that isn’t really a gift at all.

Next time you are the host try telling your friends and family not to bring anything and let’s all start to break the vicious cycle of junk food gifts.

Mary McCarthy is a freelance journalist and desperate housewife.

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