Safefood warn against unhealthy treats for children

This is the third year of their campaign to tackle the everyday habits which can lead to childhood obesity

Safefood warn against unhealthy treats for children

Posed photo of a young boy with a handful of chocolate | Image: David Cheskin / PA Archive/Press Association Images

Safefood is urging parents to redouble their efforts to reduce unhealthy treat foods in their children's diets.

Over the past three years, Safefood has been campaigning to fight childhood obesity by alerting parents to the everyday habits that can lead to excess weight in children.

The campaign centres around six areas - reducing portion sizes, managing treats, increasing physical activity, reducing screen-time, replacing sugary drinks, and encouraging more sleep.

New research indicates over 40% of parents routinely give their children treats like crisps, chocolates or sweets at least once a day or more, with half of children under five receiving one daily.

Parents were also suprised to learn that crisps and biscuits fall into the treat category with 73% not considering them as such.

Director of Human Health and Nutrition at Safefood Dr. Cliodhna Foley-Nolan says: "These have been given as daily staples for example, after school or after dinner at home."

The research also shows an increase in the number of parents giving food treats daily to children, despite the Safefood campaign.

"Parents have told us that they consider this daily food treating as ‘bribing up' their kids", says Dr. Foley-Nolan, "They routinely give these to ease any difficult situations that arose during the day and to allow themselves a little more peace and quiet".

Some helpful tactics to cut back on treats include cutting back to weekends only, buying smaller-sized treats and restricting treats to every other day.

"Having healthier snacks like raisins or popcorn in the car or your bag or even a non-food treat like football cards can also help. Or course there is also the ‘no buy’ solution - if you don’t buy them in the first place, your children won’t constantly ask you for them".

With one in four children classified as "overweight or obese", Dr. Foley-Nolan is warning against the over-consumption of these "empty calories".

"As parents, we need to break the bad habits of giving these every day as it’s now become the norm and not really a ‘treat’ anymore".