A new national campaign by Public Health England is encouraging parents to cut down the sugar their kids consume by making one or more simple swaps.
Over 20 per cent of reception pupils (aged 5 to 6) across Cambridgeshire are overweight or obese rising to around 29 per cent amongst Year 6 pupils (aged 10 to 11).
Local health experts at Cambridgeshire County Council are backing the Change4Life campaign, with sugar thought to be one of the main culprits why children become overweight or obese.
Eating and drinking too much sugar means extra calories, which causes fat to build up inside the body and lead to health problems which includes heart disease, some cancers or type 2 diabetes. Children who are overweight or obese when they are young are far more likely to become overweight or obese adults and these figures demonstrate the increasing need to address children's diet and limit future health problems.
Sugar is also having an impact upon dental health, an integral part of overall health. Tooth decay was the most common reason for hospital admissions for children aged five to nine in 2012-13. 28 per cent of 5 year olds in England have tooth decay and of these, 24 per cent have five or more teeth affected. When children are not healthy this affects their ability to learn, thrive and develop.
To cut back on the sugar and a lead a healthier life, the Change4Life campaign recommends that Mums and Dads make some simple swaps at key times during the day, such as:
* The Breakfast Swap: sugary cereal for plain cereal e.g. whole wheat biscuit cereal
* The Drink Swap: e.g. from sugary drinks to sugar-free or no-added-sugar drinks
* The After School Swap: for example from muffins to fruited teacake
* The Pudding Swap: for example from ice cream to low-fat lower-sugar yoghurt
Cambridgeshire County Council's Public Health Team will be supporting the campaign through the Food for Life Partnership programme in some local schools focusing on cutting back on sugar. The Programme will be showing children how to choose, cook and eat a diet lower in sugars, salt and saturated fat (and higher in fruit and veg, fibre and oily fish). Schools across the county will also be sent cooking packs as part of the campaign. The council will be working with communities in in Fenland where people can find more about sugars swaps and providing staff who work with children, young families and mums to be with information about the campaign.
Throughout the campaign, families will be able to register for their FREE Sugar Swaps pack which they will receive through the post. The packs are filled with hints, tips and recipe suggestions designed to help parents cut down the sugary foods and drinks consumed by their children, plus money-off vouchers, swap cards and stickers. To sign up, families can click here
Val Thomas, Consultant in Public Health at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: "Around 29 per cent of children aged 10 in Cambridgeshire are overweight or obese. This means that over one in four is at risk in the future of ongoing illnesses like diabetes. Helping your children to have a healthy weight doesn't mean radical changes to your family's diet. Why not sign up on the Change4Life website where you will find lots of sugar swap ideas that can help your whole family lead a healthier life. Alternatively you can go to your local library or pharmacy where you can also find for information about Sugar Swaps."
Cambridgeshire County Council Kilian Bourke, Chairman of the Council's Health Committee, said: "Sugar is major part of the obesity problem that we face here in Cambridgeshire as well as across the UK. The sugar content of our diet has steadily increased in recent years, particularly in foods that are targeted at young people, and even some products marketed as 'healthy' can have a shockingly high sugar content.
"That is why this campaign is encouraging families to make a few modest but sustainable swaps to help them bring down their sugar intake. Doing so can make a big difference over time and I would definitely encourage people to give it a go. The local schools participating in the Food for Life Partnership, which has a programme encouraging healthy eating, have had some great early success. It would be fantastic if we could spread this culture change to the wider community."