Limit children to two snacks a day, health body says

Children should be limited to eating just two snacks of no more than 100 calories a day to cut their sugar intake, a UK health body has warned.

Public Health England (PHE) has revealed that half of children’s sugar intake, currently around seven sugar cubes a day, comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks.

Each year, children are consuming almost 400 biscuits; more than 120 cakes, buns and pastries; around 100 portions of sweets; nearly 70 of both chocolate bars and ice creams; with over 150 juice drink pouches and cans of fizzy drink.

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.

PHE’s new Change4Life campaign encourages parents to ‘Look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day max’ to help them purchase healthier snacks than the ones they are currently.

Selected supermarkets are supporting the campaign, including Tesco and Co-op. 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.

Many of the unhealthy snacks children consume regularly are high in sugar and also typically high in calories, for example a chocolate bar contains around 200 calories.

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, says, “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.”

Graham MacGregor, professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London and chairman of Action on Sugar, says, “The findings about children’s daily sugar intake are shocking and need to be a stark reminder to the government that we urgently need a revised and robust childhood obesity strategy to help tackle the country’s escalating obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemic – not to mention the cost of treating tooth decay.

“Tactics need to include mandatory product reformulation, clear front of pack colour coded labelling and a ban on promotions on foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar as well as tighter restrictions on marketing and advertising which hugely influence children’s food and drink preferences.

“It’s ludicrous that billions of pounds are being spent by food and drink manufacturers on such promotions and publicity which will simply outweigh the benefits of this campaign. Whilst parents do have a responsibility to take control of their children’s snacking, so do food and drink manufacturers and the government.”

PHE is working with the food industry to cut 20% of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020, with work to reduce calories due to start this year.

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