safefood Kid's Food Challenge aims to address poor eating habits of children

6 March, 2007. Earlier today, safefood launched the Kid’s Food Challenge, a practical and fun wall chart designed to encourage parents and their children to adopt healthier eating habits. The Consumer Attitudes to Food Standards Survey revealed that 67% of parents in Northern Ireland were making a special effort to avoid or reduce children’s consumption of foods containing fat and sugar¹ and 90% of respondents agreed that parents should help children eat healthily². The aim of the safefood Kid’s Food Challenge is to provide parents with an alternative reward system for their children other than unhealthy treat foods.

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 treats than normal or replaced treat foods with healthy alternatives such as popcorn, fruit, water or smoothies.   

The safefood Kid’s Food Challenge includes a wall chart, stickers and an information booklet with ideas and practical tips to offer alternative rewards to children. It will be distributed to families through Primary Times magazine and NI 4 Kids in Northern Ireland. The safefood Kid’s Food Challenge is also available from the safefood helpline on 0800 085 1683 or to download at

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director of Human Health and Nutrition, with 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 treats 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 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

Leanne McCarroll/Kathy Doyle 
Tel: 028 9039 5500      
Leanne (07795 485511)
Kathy (07736 844076)

Fiona Gilligan
Tel: 03531 448 0600

¹,² Consumer Attitudes to Food Standards (Food Standards Agency, Northern Ireland, February 2007)

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 offers 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 children gets treat foods, but allow them 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, listening and 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 children in other ways by giving them comics or books or with outings to the park or the swimming pool.