Northern Ireland: children are eating seven times more treats than recommended limit

06 December 2019

Children are eating seven times more unhealthy foods such as crisps, biscuits and sweets than they should be, a report shows.

The research by Safefood (the all-Ireland food safety organisation) reveals that only 6% of parents say they rarely or never give treats – foods high in fat, salt and sugar – while 12% do so at least once a day.

The main reasons given were rewarding good behaviour (42%), because children asked for them (42%) or to make children feel better (29%).

Parents also said that they found treats unavoidable, from being a persistent part of celebrations and occasions, to post-activity snacking, to being ever-present while supermarket shopping.

42% of parents have given their children sweet treats as a reward for good behaviour

The report launch coincides with the latest phase of the START campaign, a five-year public health awareness and education campaign aimed at helping parents cut back on treats.

Dr Marian O’Reilly, chief specialist in nutrition at Safefood, said we need to ‘change our thinking around the term “treats”’, which now ‘make up almost a quarter of what our children eat on a daily basis’. 

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