Children should only be allowed two snacks of 100 calories or less a day, in a bid to tackle spiralling obesity rates, health officials say.
Public Health England (PHE) urged parents to clamp down on “a grazing culture,” as research found half of children’s sugar intake is being consumed between meals.
The average child eats at least three snacks a day, the data shows – which can take up at least one third of their daily recommended calorie allowance.
As a result, one in three children are overweight or obese by the time they leave primary school, NHS data shows.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE said “the erosion of meal times” meant children were snacking throughout the day, fuelling Britain’s obesity crisis.
Each year, children are consuming almost 400 biscuits, more than 120 cakes, buns and pastries, around 100 portions of sweets and nearly 70 of both chocolate bars and ice creams – washed down with more than 150 juice drink pouches and cans of fizzy drink, their findings show.
“The average child is having more than three unhealthy sugary snacks a day- biscuits, cakes and so on,” she said.
“In fact it’s probably more than that, because often children are having things which aren’t counted in the records as snacks – such as a bag of chips on the way home from school – with an erosion of meal times.”
“That’s part of the reason why we have an obesity epidemic in this country,” the nutritionist said. “It has become a grazing culture, and people just don’t think about how it all adds up.”
Children eat an average of 3.4 snacks a day, the figures show.
With an average chocolate bar containing around 200 calories, a packet of crisps around 190 calories, and a pastry around 270 calories, a child could easily consume 660 calories in snacks alone – at least a third of the daily requirement for those under 10.
PHE’s latest Change4Life campaign encourages parents to “Look for 100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max.”
Officials described it as a “simple rule of thumb” to help busy parents.
Dr Tedstone urged parents to keep temptation out of sight, and to learn to say no to pester power.
“If you have snacks in sight children will want them,” she said. “Ask yourself, are they really hungry or is it a habit? You don’t always have to say yes.”
The recommended daily maximum for sugar is no more than five cubes of sugar for four to six-year-olds and no more than six cubes for seven to 10-year-olds per day.
But children on average have around seven cubes a day – half of it from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks, leading to obesity and dental decay, PHE said.
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.
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.
Justine Roberts, chief executive and founder of Mumsnet, said: “The volume of sugar kids are getting from snacks and sugary drinks alone is pretty mindblowing, and it can often be difficult to distinguish which snacks are healthy and which aren’t.
“This rule of thumb from Change4Life will help parents make healthier choices, which can only be a good thing.”
The campaign, which features a TV advert created by Aardman animations, will run across England from Tuesday for eight weeks and will see parents offered money-off vouchers for healthier snack options by signing up to the Change4Life website.
It is backed by supermarkets, including Tesco, which will highlight “little swaps” to help parents choose ten snacks which together cost less than the less healthy alternatives.
PHE is working with the food industry to cut 20 per cent of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020.
Graham MacGregor, chairman of Action on Sugar said the findings were “shocking”.
But he said the country urgently needed a stronger childhood obesity strategy, including a ban on promotions on foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar.
“It’s ludicrous that billions of pounds are being spent by food and drink manufacturers on such promotions and publicity which will simply outweigh the benefits of this campaign,” he said.
Article Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/02/snack-attack-children-should-allowed-two-tiny-treats-daily/