Parents are making positive changes

Monday, 30 March 2009. Research conducted by HSE and safefood for the ‘Little Steps’ campaign, suggests that parents are making positive changes to their children’s diet and physical activity levels. 51% of parents stated they are replacing unhealthy food with healthier options (1) and 61% of parents said their children are spending more time doing physical activity during the week (1).

‘Little Steps’ is a HSE and safefood campaign which aims to provide parents with information and support to make small changes to improve their children’s diet and increase their levels of physical activity. The campaign research also suggests a decrease in the amount of time children are spending playing computer games. 37% of parents reported that their children are spending less time, compared to 27% in May 2008 (1). 75% of parents said they are encouraging their children to reduce or avoid foods containing sugar including sweets, biscuits and chocolate, compared to 67% in May 2008 (1).

Commenting on the ‘Little Steps’ research, Catherine Murphy, Assistant National Director Population Health, Health Promotion, Health Service Executive said, “Our campaign research has revealed a number of beneficial changes that parents are making in their children’s lives. It is reassuring to see that children are taking more physical activity during the week, and spending less time in front of the TV playing computer games. We would like to see parents continuing to build on this by introducing some more ‘Little Steps’ into their family’s routine”.

The ‘Little Steps’ research also indicated an increase* in the number of parents who definitely think their own eating habits (49%) influence those of their children (1). 51% of parents now say that they are preparing more meals from raw ingredients, with the same percentage also reducing salt, and foods containing fat and saturated fat in their children’s diets (1).

Dr. Cliodhna Foley Nolan, Director, Human Health and Nutrition, safefood said, “This research is to be welcomed and while it is positive to see that parents are recognising the influence their diet has on their children’s, these represent little steps in what is a long journey. With almost a quarter of children being classified as overweight or obese, it is encouraging to see parents taking on the challenge and actually taking action to improve their children’s health and that of future generations”.

One of the ways to introduce ‘Little Steps’ into family life is by eating and taking physical activity together as a family. Children who eat with their families consume fewer higher calorie drinks, more fruit and vegetables, and less fat both at home and in meals away from the home. Lots of simple ‘Little Steps’ including shopping, cooking, healthy eating and physical activity tips and ideas are available from the website

A supporting TV and radio advertising campaign for ‘Little Steps’ will air from today, 30th March 2009. For more information on the ‘Little Steps’ campaign visit

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For further information please contact

Serena Leyden/Kate FitzGerald


Phone number:

Serena Leyden: 01 6690169 / 087 1379138

Kate FitzGerald: 01 6690179 / 086 3873083 



  1. HSE/safefood Obesity Research – Millward Brown IMS, September 2008

Editor’s Notes * The research revealed an increase in the number of parents who definitely think their own eating habits influence those of their children at 49%, compared to 42% in May 2008.

Additional Research Findings

  • 41% of parents definitely think their own activity levels influence those of their children
  • 87% of parents agreed that their child enjoys being physically active
  • 44% of children are taking more exercise
  • 37% of children are watching less TV
  • There has also been an increase in the number of children cycling at 57%, compared to 46% in May 2008
  • 6 out of 10 children (61%) are spending 3 or more hours doing some kind of physical activity from Monday to Friday
  • 65% of children are walking elsewhere (other than school) on a typical week. This level has increased from 59% in May 2008
  • Almost 7 out of 10 children (68%) are eating more fruit and vegetables
  • 59% if children are eating less junk or convenience food

Additional Research