New Change4Life campaign encourages parents in the West Midlands region to “Look for 100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max” to cut children’s sugar intake.
Public Health England (PHE) is helping parents in the West Midlands 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 7 sugar cubes a day, comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks, leading to obesity and dental decay.
Recent data show childhood obesity has reached alarming rates, with 24.2% of 4- to 5-year-olds (Reception Year) overweight or obese in the West Midlands region, increasing to 37.1% in 10 to 11-year olds (Year 6).
Each year children in 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 3 unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, with around a third consuming 4 or more. The overall result is that children consume three times more sugar than is recommended.
The new Change4Life campaign encourages parents in West Midlands region to “Look for 100 calorie snacks, 2 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.
Many of the unhealthy snacks children consume regularly are high in sugar and also typically high in calories, for example:
- an ice-cream contains around 175 calories
- a pack of crisps contains around 190 calories
- a chocolate bar contains around 200 calories
- a pastry contains around 270 calories
The “100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max” tip applies to all snacks apart from fruit and vegetables, as children should also be encouraged to eat a variety of these to achieve their 5 A Day.
Dr Lola Abudu, PHE West Midlands Director of Health and Wellbeing, said: “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 calories snacks, two a day max, we’re helping them to give heathier snacks, while giving them less frequently.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “The true extent of children’s snacking habits is greater than the odd biscuit or chocolate bar. Children are having unhealthy snacks throughout the day and parents have told us they’re concerned. To make it easier for busy families, we’ve developed a simple rule of thumb to help them move towards healthier snacking – Look for 100 calories snacks, two a day max.”
PHE’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.
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. PHE 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.
Families can get tips for healthier snacking when Public Health England’s (PHE) Change4Life roadshow comes to the West Midlands in the New Year, as part of a nationwide tour taking in 30 supermarkets and 14 shopping centres. The roadshow will start by visiting Walsall on Monday 8 January, then Dudley on Tuesday 9 January, followed by Sandwell on Wednesday 10 January – with more dates to follow though into February.
The roadshow will encourage parents to “Look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day max” and provide demonstrations of the new Change4Life ‘Food Scanner’ app, which works by scanning barcodes and helping bring food labels to life by highlighting the number of calories, as well as how much sugar, saturated fat and salt is in everyday food and drinks children consume.
During the roadshows families will also be shown how to swap to healthier snack options using front of pack ‘traffic light’ labels. On the day, parents can sign up to Change4Life for additional support and money-off vouchers to help them try healthier snack options, including malt loaf, lower sugar fromage frais, and drinks with no added sugar.