'Dangerous levels': Parents urged to make 'one daily win' on healthy eating for their kids

Most of us are guilty of treating our kids that one time too many.

Mainly because it's easy (and cheaper) to dole out crisps and chocolates as rewards or to keep the peace, but it's definitely not helping our kids.

And with the run up to the summer and hopefully being able to get out and about more, safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland are encouraging parents to reduce the amount of treat foods given to children.

Research reveals almost one fifth of the average weekly family food shop is spent on highly processed ‘treat’ foods like crisps, chocolates and sweets.

This compares with only 10 percent spent on fruit and 7 percent on vegetables.

The research found that on average, families with children spent €1,037 last year on treat foods. In comparison, the spend on fruit was €521 and €346 on vegetables. Among treat foods, chocolate and sweets (€228); sugary drinks (€199); biscuits (€161) and crisps (€129) accounted for almost 2/3rd of the annual spend on treat foods.

The research only includes supermarket shopping trips and doesn’t account for purchases in outlets such as garage forecourts, cafes, cinemas etc.

"These foods which are full of empty calories are now a staple in our weekly shop," Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said.

"We accept them as the norm in our children’s daily diet and they are not seen as a real treat any more. The balance is all wrong and we’re under-consuming the vital nutrients in fruit and vegetables. Undoubtedly this level of consumption by families is contributing to our dangerous levels of overweight, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

"These highly processed foods are everywhere, at all times of the year and are so cheap – it’s no wonder that we are finding it difficult to not overindulge our children and ourselves. Regarding being healthy as a family, 40% of parents cited trying to cut back on sweets, ice-cream etc. as the number one barrier to healthy eating."

The research was carried out to coincide with the latest phase of START, the five-year public health awareness campaign from safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland.

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

The ‘START’ campaign has been built on the realities of daily parenting and has been created to help parents get started and build momentum by achieving one daily win.

For example, having fruit after school as a snack, not buying treats in the weekly shop means there’s less of them to have at home, and by linking treats to real occasions like family birthdays and events helps children to understand the value of what is a treat and that it’s not an everyday thing.

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

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