Why reduce treats?

This week we are launching, ‘Let’s Say No’ to treat foods, the latest phase in our campaign to reduce childhood obesity.


The amount of treat foods that our children are eating is way too much. More than is good for their health. These foods are providing what we call ‘empty’ calories, which means they provide calories but little nourishment. They add extra fat and sugar to children’s diets and can contribute to obesity. Currently these foods such as chocolate, sweets, biscuits and crisps make up around 20% of children’s daily calorie intake. Most people know at this stage that one in four children is either overweight or obese.

The critical time when most children are eating these foods is between meals. Although there is no specific recommended intake of these foods, ideally they should only be eaten in small amounts, and not every day.

How did we come up with our advice?

We know that parents want the best for their children but find treat foods difficult to manage. So, during the summer we spoke to parents across the island to hear about the challenges they have in trying to reduce the treats their children eat. We also learned a lot about what works for them.

Here’s what parents told us:

  • They didn’t want to deprive their child of treats
  • A lot of the time it was easier to say yes to treats for the peace and quiet they brought
  • Treats aren’t really treats anymore – children assume they’re going to get them, so there’s no point hiding them
  • Parents themselves like and want these foods so it’s hard to say no to the kids when you are having them yourself
  • It’s too difficult to ask friends and family to reduce the treats  they give to the child as it might cause tension
  • Treats are everywhere, which adds to the challenge

blog speech bubbleAnd here’s what worked for parents who were successfully dealing with these foods

  • They were consistent in their routines and rules around treats
  • They didn’t include treat foods in weekly shop
  • They had  certain days for having treat foods e.g. every other day, weekend days
  • They often deferred giving treat foods – offer something else and say ‘later’
  • They gave  children the option of a small treat or a more substantial non-food treat later

For these Mums and Dads, it was evident they had set clear limits for their children and they followed through most of the time.

Listening to parents provided us with many of the answers of how to support them. Apart from information on healthy snack options parents made it very clear they needed practical support on parenting style, strategies and how to put it all into practice. 

As with previous messages in our campaign, the focus is on practical and realistic changes that parents can make and sustain over time. We’re urging parents to say no to treats foods like chocolate, sweets, biscuits, crisps every day. The safefood provides tips and advice from experts as well.

We look forward to plenty of discussion in the coming weeks.

Posted: 22/09/2014 12:24:48 by Ray Dolan
Filed under: Campaigns, Childhood obesity, Snacks, Treats

About Me

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Ray Dolan
Hi, my name is Ray Dolan and I am the CEO of safefood. I am married with 3 adult children and my background is in finance and administration. I am a trained accountant and was head of corporate operations at safefood before becoming CEO. I enjoy following sport as a fan and I play golf and tennis. I have given up on getting my handicap down but still dream of getting a hole in one.