START campaign encourages parents to give their kids healthier after-school and evening snacks

Almost a quarter of Northern Irish children’s daily diet consists of “Junk” foods such as crisps, biscuits, cakes, sweets and chocolate, new safefood research has revealed.

Tuesday 21 May, 2019. Almost a quarter of Northern Irish children’s daily diet consists of “Junk” foods such as crisps, biscuits, cakes, sweets and chocolate, new safefood research has revealed. The research found that these foods, which are high in fat, salt and sugar are the second most consumed food group by children in Northern Ireland, ahead of fruit, vegetables and starchy carbohydrates that are recommended as part of a healthy diet.

In addition, the study showed that children consumed the highest amounts of ‘Junk’ food in the afternoon and evening with almost 40% of afternoon snacks and 25% of evening snacks consisting of foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

The research coincides with the latest phase of the START campaign, a five-year public health awareness campaign from safefood, the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency.

The START campaign is encouraging parents to give healthier snacks to children and to only have treats in small amounts, and not every day. Agreeing to changes together as family and having a “no-junk-during-weekdays” plan are also ideas for families to cut down on treat foods.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said; 

The stand-out result in this research is how so-called ‘junk’ food is now a filler between and after meals in families’ daily diets.”

“Parents involved in the research told us that afternoons and evenings are the danger times when it comes to giving these foods to their children and to themselves.”

“Parents want their children to feel cared for and not to be hungry when they get in from school or before dinner is ready. These “junk” foods, which are full of empty calories, fill that gap and are now a staple in our weekly shop and our children’s daily diets.

“We struggle to avoid these treat foods every day because they’re available everywhere, highly palatable, cheap and frequently on special offer.”

Recent research* for the START campaign highlighted that 1 in 3 parents (33%) found it difficult to cut back on treat foods or keep them to a minimum. More than 1 in 3 parents (36%) also reported they were not confident about changing their child’s behaviour when it came to eating more healthily.

The START campaign is encouraging families to take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle for their children by supporting them to achieve one daily win, and to persist with the changes, no matter how difficult they become.

To find out more about the START campaign and ways to make a healthy, positive start visit www.makeastart.org.

2 plates showing food groups

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For further information or to request an interview, please contact

Russell Lever / Vicki Caddy

ASG & Partners

Tel: 028 9080 2000  

Mob: 077 8828 8901 (Russell Lever) / 078 1438 0487 (Vicki Caddy)

Email: russell@asgandpartners.com / vicki@asgandpartners.com  

Or

Dermot Moriarty / Julie Carroll

safefood

Tel: 00353 1 448 0600

Mob: 00353 86 381 1034 (Dermot) / 00353 86 150 3047 (Julie)

Email: press@safefood.eu

Editors notes

The START campaign is a five-year public health awareness campaign from safefood, the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency.

The campaign is encouraging families to take the first step towards a healthier lifestyle for their children by supporting them with one daily win and to persist with the changes, no matter how difficult they become.

To find out more about the START campaign and ways to make a healthy, positive start visit www.makeastart.org.

In identifying the positive starts that parents and families can take, the campaign advertising focuses on seven key lifestyle habits:

  • Minimise intake of foods high in fat, salt and sugar
  • Establish water and milk as routine drinks
  • Give appropriate child-sized portions to children
  • Include more fruit and vegetables across the week
  • Increase physical activity levels
  • Limit screen time
  • Increase sleep time

The campaign was developed using a ‘co-creation’ approach, which involves working with parents in particular, and key stakeholders to ensure the campaign is relevant, realistic and can achieve results.

References

¹“What’s on your child's plate? Food portion sizes and the proportion of different food groups eaten by children on the island of Ireland”. (UCC; Queens University Belfast; NUI Galway; safefood 2019)

*Ipsos MRBI / safefood in-home, face-to-face survey of 974 parents with children aged 6 months to 12 years; Oct 2018