Almost a fifth of Newry preschool children’s daily diet is unhealthy treat foods | News in Newry | Latest Newry News, Newry Sport and Newry Business for Newry City

Almost a fifth of Newry preschool children’s daily diet is unhealthy treat foods | News in Newry

Almost a fifth (19%) of Newry preschool children’s daily diet consists of unhealthy treat foods including biscuits, crisps, cakes, sweets, and chocolate, new START campaign research has revealed.

 

Almost a fifth of Newry preschool children’s daily diet is unhealthy treat foods | News in Newry - newry newspaper

 

The research also found that a child’s daily calorie intake from unhealthy treat foods increased as they get older with a quarter (25%) of local primary school children’s daily diet consisting of treats that are high in fat, sugar, and salt.

Currently, a quarter of children aged 2-15 years in Northern Ireland are reported to be overweight (20%) or obese (6%), with the study showing that treat foods like biscuits, chocolate, soft drinks, and savoury snacks contributed significantly to the total intakes of saturated fat and added sugar among children.

The research was conducted in May 2022 as part of the START campaign from safefood, the Public Health Agency and the Department of Health to understand the role of snacking and treat foods in children’s lives.

The START campaign, with the support of Northern Ireland Senior Women’s International Captain, Marissa Callaghan, is encouraging parents to take steps towards healthier family habits by reducing the number of treats they give their children and giving healthier snacks when children are hungry.

Dr Aileen McGloin, Director of Nutrition with safefood says, “We know that snacks play an important role in children’s diets, particularly so for younger children.

“However, this research shows that children are getting too many snacks from unhealthy foods like biscuits, crisps, chocolate, and sweets.

“We want to support parents to rethink their children’s snacks, both in terms of what they buy and what they give.

“Offering healthier snacks particularly during those after-school times during the week would be a good place to start.

“From listening to parents, we know this is really challenging because treats are readily available and so cheap.

 


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“The cost-of-living crisis makes this even more challenging. But healthy snacks can be inexpensive, quick and easy. Snack ideas to offer include crackers and cheese instead of chocolate biscuits, or plain popcorn or breadsticks instead of crisps, or for straight after school, a low-fat yoghurt or fruit instead of a chocolate bar.”

Dr. McGloin advised parents to go easy on treats during the week, buying less when shopping and asking relatives not to offer treats every day.

She adds, “All families have different circumstances so it’s about choosing what works for you and your children and making a start with that and sticking with it. We have lots of practical help and support for parents on MakeAStart.org including healthy snack ideas and videos on how to make small changes that will make a big difference for all the family.”

Northern Ireland Senior Women’s International Captain, Marissa Callaghan, says, “I’m delighted to be supporting the START campaign as I believe it helps provide parents with practical ways of helping us reduce the number of treats we give our children.

“It’s not about trying to be perfect; it’s about giving us the necessary advice to make better choices and to introduce healthier options to get that right balance for the whole family.

“As a mum, I want to make sure my young son, Quinn, is eating a healthy, balanced diet. The occasional treat is fine for our kids, but you can also swap these for healthier options like more fruit and snacks that are low in fat, salt, and sugar.

“This will be different for every family, but it is about finding what works best for you and working together as a team to reach your goals.”

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist Dr Colman Noctor adds, “The latest research from the START campaign underlines how we need to become more proactive about supporting the health of future generations by encouraging good dietary and physical activity habits.

“The key is to make gradual and progressive small changes. If your children have two treats a day, then aim to reduce that to one treat a day on weekdays and two at the weekend. Once this has been achieved it will provide parents with the confidence to continue introducing healthier diet options. Quick wins are crucial to motivational success and maintaining progress!”

The START campaign aims to support parents and guardians to talk to children about reducing treats as a family and minimise intake of foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

Visit www.makeastart.org for practical advice and support on how to reduce treats, ideas for healthy snacks and advice from parenting experts.

For Healthy Snack ideas, see https://www.safefood.net/Start/Healthy-eating/Eating-healthier-snacks

 


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