NEW and alarming research from the NHS has revealed that one in four ten and 11-year-olds in England is now obese.

And the number of younger kids who are obese when they start school has increased by a staggering 45 per cent — 14.4 per cent of four and five-year-olds were dangerously heavy last year, up from 9.9 per cent in 2019/20.

AlamyAs one in four ten and 11-year-olds in England is now obese, schools are there to educate, and should serve up a healthy meal '/ '

There was a weight problem with our children before ­lockdown but these figures show obesity is another deadly pandemic that needs to be dealt with before it gets out of ­control.

Obesity in childhood has been linked to multiple health ­problems in later life, from diabetes to high blood ­pressure.

Given that we were all cooped up at home with ­nothing much else to do other than eat, I think we can all relate to having gained some lockdown love handles.

But even before lockdown we were the heaviest nation in Western Europe, with close to two thirds of us currently overweight. And it’s getting worse. The NHS’s solution for thousands of the nation’s ­fattest children — some as young as two — is to offer them weight-loss coaching at one of 15 new clinics, starting by giving them diet plans to follow.

This is dealing with the problem, not the cause. Let’s face facts. It can often cost less to buy a fat and salt-laden ready meal or takeaway than to buy and cook a healthy family meal.

So nobody can judge a stressed-out parent, who isn’t a confident cook and is struggling to make ends meet, for taking the convenience route.

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Bad old days

Those busy parents may not have enjoyed exercise at school so didn’t continue to keep fit in adulthood.

They can’t educate their kids about sport by example, meaning we have millions of youngsters who think it is perfectly OK to spend hours watching TV, playing computer games and using mobile phones.

And then there are school dinners. Jamie Oliver has flagged up a new crisis that is looming. His charity Bite Back revealed that since the pandemic began, schools have gone back to the bad old days.

Canteens are once again dishing up burgers, pizza slices, fried chicken, chips and cakes. Plus they are selling fizzy drinks and sweets, while ­Starbucks has set up franchises in some, selling paninis and cakes.

In fact, only 40 per cent of schools are meeting the food standards Oliver campaigned so hard for. I am currently sitting on the Select Committee to decide a National Plan For Sport And Recreation, looking into just this issue.

I can’t pre-empt the committee’s report but unless we do something drastic then it’s going to get worse. So what do we do? First, we have to look at schools.

        Schools are there to educate, and if they can’t serve up a healthy meal, it is simply ­disgusting. They are teaching children bad habits.

                Karren Brady                

I would love schools to offer healthy meals again. Maybe the ­pandemic has meant rising food costs for the schools, maybe they have fewer staff members to serve meals so find it easier to offer ­burgers and chips.

But when this may be the only meal some children eat in a day, it has to be decent.

Schools are there to educate, and if they can’t serve up a healthy meal, it is simply ­disgusting. They are teaching children bad habits.

And I think we should bring back cookery lessons in schools so that all children can learn to enjoy creating healthy meals. Then, when they grow up, they can make a healthy dinner easily without fear or stress, instead of opting for a McDonald’s or KFC.

We also have to make sport fun and not overly competitive, because if children feel they are not good enough they will be discouraged from taking part. We need to offer variety, too. Currently, if kids don’t like football, rugby, cricket or netball, they are limited in what else they can do.

Schools should offer a greater ­variety so kids find something they enjoy doing, whether it’s rollerblading or basketball. And something they want to do for life.

Lead by example

I think there should be a scheme or incentive to get children moving — something that would encourage them to walk to school.

The bottom line is we all need to lead by example. It isn’t just children who are obese in this country.

We must all try to eat healthily and exercise, then our children will copy our example.

This is a public health emergency waiting to unfold and we all need to take it on and do our bit, both for ourselves and for our children.

PR Handout - Free to useThe bottom line is we all need to lead by example, it isn’t just children who are obese in this country, says Karren Brady '/ '

Keep the snakes, I have my creature comforts

IT’S the countdown to Christmas . . . aka the start of I’m A Celebrity.

It’s addictive and I love watching it. I wish the new contestants the best of luck, but rather them than me.

ITVI’ve been asked several times to be on I'm A Celebrity, but I will stick to watching it from the comfort of my own home '/ '

I’ve been asked several times to be one of those celebs.

Each time, I have considered it for a nanosecond and politely refused.

The thought of putting on a red T-shirt, living in the wild and facing rats and snakes makes me feel quite nauseous.

I will stick to watching it from the comfort of my own home with a glass of wine, thank you very much.

WHAT A RELIEF, MA’AM

I KNOW I am not alone in having been worried about the Queen, who has been absent from public view lately.

Last month she spoke remotely to delegates at COP26 in Glasgow and reminded world leaders to reach decisive climate change deals as “none of us will live for ever”.

PAWhat a pleasure it was to see the Queen back in action at Windsor Castle on Thursday, in her first official engagement for a while '/ '

She also missed Remembrance Sunday at the Cenotaph, and the parade, which felt momentous.

And then she was unable to attend the Church of England’s national assembly this week. But Prince Edward read out a letter she had written reminding us that, “none of us can slow the passage of time”.

All in all, it was beginning to feel a bit concerning.

So what a pleasure it was to see her back in action at Windsor Castle on Thursday, in her first official engagement for a while.

As stylish as ever in a green, orange and white floral dress and wearing a string of pearls, she looked back to her usual self as she was pictured talking to General Sir Nick Carter, the outgoing Chief of the Defence Staff.

What a relief. And it is so good to have her back to her best.

DADDY OF ALL DUPES

THERE is a new type of con in town: Sugar daddy fraud. Police are hunting people who dupe young women out of thousands of pounds by posing as sugar daddies on internet dating websites.

At least 40 women have become victims of the scammers, including one woman named Mary, a “sugar baby” who was targeted.

She met someone calling himself “Duncan” on matchmaking site Seeking Arrangement, who offered her a £2,000 monthly allowance, frequent shopping trips, holidays and unlimited access to his credit card in exchange for three to four meetings a month.

To cut a long and sorry story short, instead of all of those things, he spent £2,000 on an Amex card he had set up in her name. She also used the card, thinking he would pay off the debt.

Duncan went on to con “Mary” into transferring £2,000 of her own money to him – all of which adds up, in my mind, to a cautionary tale. Not so much about fraudulent sugar daddies – although this is of course shocking – but more about the dangers of expecting older men to give you an allowance and take you shopping in return for your “company”.

Isn’t it better to just get a job? There’s no such thing as easy money in my experience.

Taxpayers paid for this ridiculous ­situation

DON’T you just love the fact that taxpayers paid for this ridiculous ­situation to be dealt with at magistrates court . . . 

In the red corner is Margaret Porter, 67, who wouldn’t stop feeding carrots to retired racehorse Nelson. And in the blue corner is Nelson’s owner Suzanne Cooke, 50, who was terrified that the gran was giving the horse something she shouldn’t be, so turned to the police and the RSPCA.

Glen MinikinTaxpayers paid for magistrates court to deal with ridiculous Margaret Porter, 67, who wouldn’t stop feeding carrots to retired racehorse Nelson '/ '

Glen MinikinNelson’s owner Suzanne Cooke, 50, turned to the police and the RSPCA as she was terrified that the gran was giving the horse something she shouldn’t be '/ '

Now veggie-feeding Margaret has been hit with a restraining order over the naughty nibbling fiasco, barring her from putting food in the field or interfering in any way.

Phew. All sorted thanks to a lot of police and RSPCA time and the good people of York ­magistrates’ court.

Wouldn’t it have been ­better to move the horse to another field or stick up a­bigger fence?

Surely it didn’t need a hay in court to sort it out!

Zero sympathy

I HAVE zero sympathy for the nine Insulate Britain eco-zealots who were jailed this week for breaching the injunction designed to prevent their M25 road blockades, which caused two months of chaos.

Two of the activists were jailed for three months, a further six were imprisoned for four months and the ninth – Ben Taylor, 27 – received six months after boasting he would immediately block the motorway again if not imprisoned.

ROB WELHAM / McLELLANI have zero sympathy for Insulate Britain's Ben Taylor who was jailed for six months '/ '

Could they have expected anything else?

They were warned this would happen and they proceeded nonetheless.

My heart does not bleed for them.

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