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Children and families encouraged to tuck into healthier snacks as part of Change4Life Campaign

Children and parents; Healthy Living staff; Saints in the Community workers and Saints Mascot, Boots, joined Captain Tuck at the Totally Wicked Stadium to support Public Health England’s new Change4Life campaign

St Helens Council’s Healthy Living mascot, Captain Tuck, was on hand to help educate local children and families on the importance of healthier snacks as part of Public Health England’s new Change4Life campaign.

To help families get more active and eat healthier, the Healthy Living Team – along with Captain Tuck – began their new year Fit4All programme at the home of St Helens RFC, where families took part in a range of activities and learnt about healthier meals and snacks.

At the session, the Change4Life campaign key message of ‘100 calorie snacks twice a day maximum’ was also promoted to help cut children’s sugar intake which, nationally, currently stands at around seven cubes a day.

Recent data shows childhood obesity has reached alarming rates in St Helens, with 26.9 per cent of 4 to 5-year-olds overweight or obese – increasing to 38.5 per cent in 10 to 11-year-olds.

Each year children across the country 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, washed down 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.

As part of the Change4Life campaign, parents will be signposted and given special offers on a range of healthier snacks, including fruit and vegetables at selected supermarkets. They can also get money-off vouchers 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:

· An ice-cream contains around 175 calories
· A pack of crisps contains around 190 calories
· A chocolate bar contains around 200 calories
· A pastry contains around 270 calories

The ‘100 calorie snacks, two 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 five a day.

Cllr Gill Neal, St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing said: “Changing our children’s snacking habits can be a real challenge and we want to make it easier for families to find healthier options.

“By asking parents to look for two 100 calorie snacks a day, maximum, children are still able to enjoy a couple of snacks a day, but less frequently.”

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.”

PHE’s improved Change4Life ‘Food Scanner’ app shows parents how many calories, sugar, salt and saturated fat is in their food to help make healthier choices easier. It can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play.

With a third of children across the country leaving primary school overweight or obese, tackling obesity requires wider action and is not just limited to individual efforts from parents. PHE is working with the food industry nationally to cut 20 per cent of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020, with work to reduce calories due to start in 2018.

If you and your family would like to get more active and learn more about healthier meals and snacks, contact the Healthy Living Team today and sign up to their Fit4All programme by calling 0300 300 0103 or email hit@sthelens.gov.uk

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