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Parents in St Helens encouraged to ‘Be Food Smart’ with launch of new health campaign

Children in England eat almost 3 sugar cubes at breakfast time alone, which equates to half their recommended daily amount
Currently more than one in four 4- to 5-year-olds and one in three 10- to 11-year-olds in St Helens have an unhealthy weight
New Change4Life Be Food Smart app shows families how much sugar, saturated fat and salt and is in their food and drinks

St Helens Council has welcomed a new campaign by Public Health England (PHE) – encouraging parents in St Helens to ‘Be Food Smart’ and take control of their children’s diets.

The campaign has launched following findings that children eat half their daily recommended sugar intake before the morning school bell rings.

Children in England consume more than 11g of sugar at breakfast time alone, almost 3 sugar cubes. The recommended daily maximum is no more than 5 cubes of sugar for 4- to 6-year-olds and no more than 6 cubes for 7- to 10-year-olds per day.

Recent reports show that childhood obesity in England has reached alarming rates. Estimated figures show that more than one in four 4- to 5-year-olds and more than one in three 10-11 year olds in St Helens have an unhealthy weight for their age and height.

Some of the main sources of sugar at breakfast time include sugary cereals, drinks, and spreads. Away from the breakfast table, children are also eating too much sugar, saturated fat and salt in items such as confectionery, biscuits, muffins, pastries and soft drinks, which all contribute to an unhealthy diet.

PHE’s new Change4Life campaign urges parents to ‘Be Food Smart’ and take more control of their children’s diets. A new “Be Food Smart” app has been developed to highlight just how much sugar, saturated fat and salt can be found in everyday food and drink that their children eat.

The free app helps and encourages families to choose healthier options and works by scanning the barcode of products allowing parents to compare brands, and features food detective activities for children and mini missions the whole family can enjoy.

Councillor Richard McCauley, cabinet member for public health and wellbeing, said: “The latest child obesity figures for St Helens show just how important it is for families to know what they are putting on their plates.

“The Be Food Smart App will take some of the pressure off parents and help them to choose healthier food and drink options for their children.”

The campaign also helps parents identify the health harms of children eating and drinking too much sugar, saturated fat and salt, including becoming overweight or obese and developing tooth decay.

Commenting on the latest research findings, Sara Stanner, Science Director at the British Nutrition Foundation said: “When analysing a number of breakfasts from families across England, we were concerned to see the high amount of free sugars and low amount of fibre in many of these.

“We know a healthy breakfast can make an important contribution to children’s vitamin and mineral intakes and its consumption has been linked to many positive health outcomes. There are plenty of healthier options available so we need campaigns like Change4Life to help busy parents make the right choices for their families.”

Tackling obesity is everyone’s responsibility, not just parents. PHE is currently working with retailers, food manufacturers and other organisations in the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar by 20% contained in products children consume. Eight in ten parents (81%) surveyed support this action and believe food manufacturers have a responsibility to reduce sugar in their products.

Download the new free Be Food Smart app from the iTunes Store or Google Play to get hints and tips to cut down the amount of total sugar, saturated fat and salt in your family’s diet.

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