Public Health England (PHE) is hoping to reduce children’s sugar intake with a £4.5m Change4Life campaign that promotes healthier snacks.
Half of children’s sugar intake comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks, leading to obesity and dental decay, according to government data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
The survey finds that on average, children are consuming at least three unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, with around a third consuming four or more. The overall result is that children consume three times more sugar than is recommended, the survey results find.
To tackle this, Change4Life is launching its first campaign aimed at healthy snacking. The tagline of the campaign reads: “Look for 100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max”.
The campaign will include a new TV ad that features its existing Change4Life characters. It will also run across radio, social media and select out-of-home (OOH) sites.
The campaign is being supported by Tesco and Co-op who will both be providing parents with the option of healthier snacks that are 100 calories or less.
Parents can also get money-off vouchers from Change4Life to help them try healthier snack options, including malt loaf, lower sugar fromage frais, and drinks with no added sugar. PHE will also be offering consumers money off toothbrushes in order to battle tooth decay.
PHE’s improved Change4Life ‘Food Scanner’ app also shows parents how many calories, sugar, salt and saturated fat is in their food to help make healthier choices easier. It can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.
The campaign forms part of PHE's wider drive to tackle childhood obesity, both by encouraging parents to buy healthier snacks, and by working with the food industry to cut 20% of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020. Work to reduce calories in popular products is due to start in 2018.
The “100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max” tip applies to all snacks apart from fruit and vegetables, as children should also be encouraged to eat a variety of these to achieve their 5 A Day.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “The true extent of children’s snacking habits is greater than the odd biscuit or chocolate bar. Children are having unhealthy snacks throughout the day and parents have told us they’re concerned.
“To make it easier for busy families, we’ve developed a simple rule of thumb to help them move towards healthier snacking – look for 100 calories snacks, two a day max.”
Justine Roberts, chief executive and founder of Mumsnet, said: “The volume of sugar kids are getting from snacks and sugary drinks alone is pretty mind blowing, and it can often be difficult to distinguish which snacks are healthy and which aren't.
“This rule of thumb from Change4Life will help parents make healthier choices, which can only be a good thing."