Parents urged to have fun with snacking in new health campaign

A new campaign has launched to help parents choose healthier snacks - as figures show children in England are eating nearly three times the recommended amount of sugar.

Eating high levels of sugar is linked to obesity and tooth decay.  In Cambridgeshire, nearly 1 in 5 five year olds are overweight or obese rising to more than 1 in 4 children aged 10 to 11 years.

Cambridgeshire County Council is supporting Public Health England’s new Change4Life campaign which has launched to help parents tackle their children’s sugar intake.

Half of the sugar children consume each year comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks. On average, children are consuming at least 3 unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, with around a third consuming 4 or more - 3 times more sugar than is recommended.

The new campaign asks parents to “Look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day max” to help them purchase healthier snacks than the ones they currently buy.

Val Thomas, consultant in public health at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Eating and drinking too much sugar means extra calories, which causes fat to build up inside the body and can lead to heart disease, some cancers or type 2 diabetes later in life. This campaign is a great way of helping parents swap children’s snacks for a healthier option. Many of the unhealthy snacks children consume regularly are high in sugar and also typically high in calories; so making a few small changes can make a big difference to a child’s health.”

As part of the initiative, parents can also get money-off vouchers from Change4Life to help them try healthier snack options. Fruit and vegetables are the best snacks, try fresh, tinned or frozen varieties but limit dried fruit or fruit/veg juices and smoothies to mealtimes. Other healthier snack choices include malt loaf, a low-fat low-sugar yoghurt, and plain rice cakes.

Selected supermarkets including Tesco and Coop are supporting the campaign by helping customers choose affordable, healthier snacks that are 100 calories or less while Cambridgeshire County Council will be distributing posters and leaflets through their Lifestyle Service, Everyone Health, and in libraries as well as promoting messages through social media.

Primary schools will also be receiving leaflets to distribute to parents with information on healthier snacking and a 7-day family snack challenge.

Public Health England’s improved Change4Life ‘Food Scanner’ app also shows parents how many calories, sugar, salt and saturated fat is in their food to help make healthier choices easier. It can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.

The new campaign asks parents to “Look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day max” to help them purchase healthier snacks than the ones they currently buy.