safefood Kid’s Food Challenge aims to address poor eating habits of children - ROI

5 March, 2007. Earlier today, safefood launched a practical and innovative healthy eating wallchart to help parents and their children adopt healthier eating habits. The safefood Kid’s Food Challenge is designed to provide parents with an alternative reward system in their children’s diet other than unhealthy treat foods. The National Children’s Nutrition Survey revealed that 70% of parents who felt that nutrition was important to health found difficulty in providing a healthy diet for their child(1).

The safefood Kid’s Food Challenge was developed by experts across public health, nutrition, education and psychology, to provide parents with a practical tool to create fun around healthy eating. The reward system works by children being awarded a sticker for eating a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner. At the end of each day, a child receives another sticker if they consumed fewer treat foods than normal or replaced treat foods with healthy alternatives such as popcorn, fruit, water or smoothies.   

The safefood Kid’s Food Challenge will be distributed to primary school children.  The challenge includes a wall chart, stickers and an information booklet with ideas and practical tips to offer alternative rewards to children.  The safefood Kid’s Food Challenge is also available from the safefood helpline on 1850 40 45 67 or to download at

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director of Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said, “The safefood Kid’s Food Challenge is a fun way for parents to make the initial steps to introduce an alternative reward system other than treat foods to their children. We’re not saying to cut treats out all together, but in order to protect children’s health now and in the future, there is a need to reduce unhealthy treat foods in children’s diets and replace them with more nutritious foods. By reducing the quantity of treat foods given to children, parents are taking the first step towards improving their children’s health in the long-term.” 

David Coleman, Clinical Psychologist and RTE TV presenter of Families in Trouble said, “When children act in a certain way and get a positive reward for their actions they are more likely to repeat the action in order to receive the same reward. Sticker charts such as the safefood Kid’s Food Challenge, is a great way of altering the behaviour of children in a positive way. The sticker can be a fun prize for a child in return for their new healthy eating habits. A colourful chart, such as the safefood Kid’s Food Challenge is a very visible record of how often and how much a new behaviour is happening and it can also be a talking point for others to notice a child’s positive behaviour.”


For further information please contact

Niamh Burdett or Andrew Hyland 
Tel: 01 6690030       
Niamh (086 608 6764)
Andrew (087 9088 322)

Fiona Gilligan
Tel: 01 4480600


(1) Kiely M, Walton J, O’Brien D,  Family Influences on Nutrition in Children aged 5-12 years. Data launched at The National Children’s Survey of 5-12y olds in ROI. (IUNA, May 2005)

Editor’s notes

  • Treat foods include chocolate, crisps, sweets, cakes, biscuits and pastries.
  • Treat foods can be high in fat, especially saturated fat, which can be detrimental to children’s heart health in the long-term
  • Some examples of healthier snacks for children:
  • Switch from crisps to popcorn. Popcorn is low in fat and it contains fibre for healthy digestion.
  • Mini boxes of raisins and dried fruits such as dates and prunes are an alternative to chewy sweets.
  • For chocoholic kids, instead of a chocolate bar, a mug of milky hot chocolate is a great calcium boost for children.
  • Blend seasonal fruits with yogurt to make a delicious smoothie.
  • Unsweetened cereal with milk is an easy snack for children to prepare themselves.
  • Tips to encourage children to embrace change:
  • Focus on the positives – encourage and praise children for doing well and to keep on trying.
  • Get children involved – you decide how often your child receives treat foods, but allow your child some choice in what they eat as treats. This will help them in the long term to make healthy choices.
  • Offer other alternatives – console your child with attention. Listen and give hugs instead of treat foods.
  • Keep treats out of reach – this makes it easier for both the parent and child to avoid temptation.
  • Get kids in the kitchen – teach them how to cook simple things.
  • Replace the treats – reward your child in other ways by giving them comics or books or with outings to the park or the swimming pool.