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Children should be limited to two snacks of no more than 100 calories per day, a health body has warned.
According to Public Health England (PHE), young children are consuming at least three unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, with around a third consuming four or more - putting them at risk of obesity.
Its 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 currently buy.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, 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.”
The eight-week Change4Life campaign gives parents special offers on a range of healthier snacks at selected supermarkets, including packs of chopped vegetables and fruit, malt loaf, sugar-free jelly, and plain rice crackers.
The campaign has been launched after PHE's National Diet and Nutritional Survey reported that children between the ages of four and 10 consume over half of their sugar from unhealthy snacks.
Each year, children have been found to consume on average, some 400 biscuits, 120 cakes, buns and pastries, 100 portions of sweets, 70 chocolate bars and ice creams and 150 juice drink pouches and cans of fizzy drink.
Justine Roberts, chief executive officer 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.”
PHE’s 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.
For more information on the Change4Life campaign visit: https://www.nhs.uk/change4life