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Change4Life campaign aims to curb children's overindulgence in sugary snacks

Public Health England is encouraging parents to offer children healthier, 100 calorie snacks as alternative to tackle the obesity epidemic.

Public Health England (PHE) is encouraging parents to offer children healthier 100 calorie snacks to tackle the obesity epidemic.

  • One third of children in England leave primary school overweight or obese
  • PHE is working with food industry to cut 20% of sugar from popular children's foods by 2020 
  • Unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks lead to obesity and tooth decay

Half the sugar consumed by children comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks, according to a new Public Health England campaign.

PHE warns that on average, children are consuming at least three unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, with around one third consuming four or more. This means that children can easily consume three times more sugar than is recommended.

Obesity campaign
The Change4Life TV advert was created by Aardman Animations. Picture: PA

Its new Change4Life campaign encourages parents to 'Look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day max', to help them offer healthier snacks in a bid to tackle the obesity epidemic that is seeing one third of children leave primary school overweight or obese.

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, PHE said.

This is while the recommended daily maximum is no more than five cubes of sugar for four to six-year-olds and no more than six cubes for seven to ten-year-olds per day.

Yearly consumption of sugary foods and drinks

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.
  • More than 150 juice drink pouches and cans of fizzy drink.

The campaign, which is the first Change4Life to promote healthier snacks, will offer parents special offers on a range of healthier snacks, including fruit and vegetables at selected supermarkets.

Healthier suggestions for snacks and drinks while at home and on-the-go include fresh or tinned fruit salad, chopped vegetables and lower fat hummus, plain rice cakes, crackers, malt loaf, crumpets and Scotch pancakes.

Simple rule of thumb

PHE said its new advice applies to all snacks apart from fruit and vegetables, as children should still be encouraged to eat a variety of these to achieve their five a day.

PHE chief nutritionist Alison Tedstone 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.'

The campaign, which features a TV advert created by Aardman Animations, will run across England from today for eight weeks and will see parents offered money-off vouchers for healthier snack options by signing up to the Change4Life website.

2020 target to reduce sugar content

PHE is working with the food industry to cut 20% of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020.

Commenting on the campaign, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health officer for health promotion Russell Viner said: 'The UK is facing an obesity epidemic with stats released just last week confirming levels of obesity in England remain stagnant at 28%. This is part of a series of important work PHE is doing relating to childhood obesity and is very timely. We strongly support this campaign and its focus on parents.'

But Professor Viner said the government needed to do more to tackle obesity by urgently updating its childhood obesity plan, and moves made such as preventing new fast food restaurants opening near schools and colleges.

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