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New campaign to control children's unhealthy snacking

Half of children’s sugar intake comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks. Photo: Government advertisement

Public Health England is helping parents in the South West take control of their children’s snacking by launching the first Change4Life campaign promoting healthier snacks.

This is because half of children’s sugar intake, currently around seven sugar cubes a day, comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks, leading to obesity and dental decay.

Recent data shows childhood obesity has reached alarming rates, with 22% of four-to-five year-olds overweight or obese in the South West, increasing to 30% in 10-11 year-olds.

Each year children are consuming almost 400 biscuits. Credit: Government advertisement

Each year children are consuming almost 400 biscuits; more than 120 cakes, buns and pastries; around 100 portions of sweets; nearly 70 of both chocolate bars and ice creams; washed down with over 150 juice drink pouches and cans of fizzy drink.

On average, children are consuming at least three unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, with around a third consuming four or more.

The overall result is that children consume three times more sugar than is recommended.

The new Change4Life campaign encourages parents in the South West to “Look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day max” to help them purchase healthier snacks than the ones they are currently.

Parents will be signposted and given special offers on a range of healthier snacks, including fruit and vegetables at selected supermarkets.

They can also get money-off vouchers to help them try healthier snack options, including malt loaf, lower sugar fromage frais, and drinks with no added sugar.

Parents will be signposted and given special offers on a range of healthier snacks. Credit: Government advertisment

Changing our children’s snacking habits can be a real challenge and we want to make it easier for families to find healthier options.

By asking parents to Look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day max, we’re helping them to give healthier snacks, while giving them less frequently.

I know as a parent how hard it can be but it really is just a case of swapping unhealthy snacks as much as possible.

– Justine Womack, Childhood Obesity lead for the Health Improvement team at Public Health England, South West

With a third of children leaving primary school overweight or obese, tackling obesity requires wider action and is not just limited to individual efforts from parents.

Public Health England is working with the food industry nationally to cut 20% of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020, with work to reduce calories due to start in 2018.