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Your questions answered

You asked and we have the answers. Click on the question to reveal answers from our START experts:

Dr Marian O'Reilly - safefood

When should we be giving our kids snacks?

Our expert Dr Marian O’Reilly says we should give snacks when they are really hungry and explains how she decides with her son.

What is a healthy snack?

Marian gives us some ideas for healthy snacks and when to give them.

I often get caught on the hop when I’m on the go, what’s a healthy option to give?

Marian gives us some ideas for grabbing healthy snacks in the shops when we are on the go and our kids ask for a snack.

Joana Caldeira Fernandes da Silva - safefood

What is the right portion size for kids?

Our expert Joana Caldeira Fernandes da Silva gives us a good rule of thumb for giving the right portion size for all the family.

My child is always hungry, should I restrict the food he eats?

Joana says we should make sure our kids have a healthy balance in the total food that they eat during the day.

My child is very fussy eater and won’t eat fruit & veg, what can she eat instead?

Joana Caldeira Fernandes da Silva advises on how to slowly introduce fruit and vegetables into our kids diet.

I cook big dinners and fill my kids plates, where’s the harm in that?

Joana Caldeira Fernandes da Silva says we don’t need to give kids more than they need but you can use leftovers.

If my child wants a second portion, should I give it?

Joana says to remember the right balance so if they want a second portion, kids should more of each food group not just more meat or potatoes etc.

Peadar Maxwell – Parenting expert and psychologist with HSE

How do I deal with being the only parent being “strict” about treats

Peadar says lots of parents feel this way but we should be clear on the way we want to parent and then stick with that.

I’m quite strict around treats but my husband is another story! What do I do?

Peadar says if this is an issue, then we should talk openly about this and find a common ground. And that we should talk about this away from your children.

My child is a fussy eater so is unhealthy food is better than no food?

Peadar says we shouldn’t fight over food or force kids to eat healthy food. Instead allow children develop an appetite, involve them in making of food and start by serving small quantities of healthy food – and build from there.

I feel guilty when I introduce change, what do I do?

Peadar advises us to not feel guilty, but remind ourselves why we are making the changes and to make them slowly.

What do I do when my child starts demanding treats in the supermarket

Peadar advises us to have a planned activity routine where we explain to our kids the rules around going to the shops and then stick to those rules.

What do I do when my kids eat food behind my back?

Peadar explains how we can discuss healthy eating habits with kids as they get older.

Why is rewarding kids with treats a bad idea?

Peadar explains that rewarding with treats is not a good idea because it creates an association between unhealthy food and minding yourself, and it teaches children to eat when they are not hungry.

What do I do if my kids won’t eat unless there’s promise of a treat?

Peadar says parents need to take time to change these habits and prepare their children for the changes.

What do I do if I use treats to get my kids to behave?

Peadar advises parents to make changes slowly and in tiny steps.

What do I when my kids react by saying I’m the worst, I feel so guilty?

Peadar says children reacting with big feelings is normal. He says we should empathise with them and then redirect them.

What do I do if I’m always strict but my partner gives treats anyway?

Peadar says this is a common dilemma, and that parents should discuss their approach away from the children and find an agreed approach to treats. 

Dr Aileen McGloin - safefood

Is it okay to give small treats a couple of times a day?

Aileen talks about how much treats we should be giving our children and suggests how we can gradually cut down on the amount of treats they get each day. 

What do you mean by a “treat”?

Aileen explains what is meant by a “treat” food – food that is high in fat, sugar and salt, and it of little nutritional value.

Is it okay to give treats on occasions like Halloween, Christmas and Easter?

Aileen says yes it’s okay to have treats on big occasions. She says the issue is that giving treats has become a daily occurrence rather than something given on special occasions.

What do you mean by saying "It takes a hero to be the bad guy"?

Aileen explains how it can take a heroic effort to say no to children when the ask for treats – especially when treats so hard to avoid in shops, activities etc.

Why are you targeting treats? Is it another thing for parents to feel guilty about?

Aileen that the awareness campaign is not about making parents guilty but supporting them to cut back on unhealthy food choices.


© The Food Safety Promotion Board