Public Health England has launched a new Change4Life campaign to help parents manage their children’s snacking habits. Half of children’s sugar intake (currently around 7 sugar cubes a day) each year comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks, which is leading to obesity and dental decay. On average, children are consuming at least 3 unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day, with around a third consuming 4 or more. This means that children are having three times more sugar than is recommended. Mum, actress and celebrity chef Lisa Faulkner is supporting the new campaign, which encourages parents to “Look for 100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max” to help them purchase healthier snacks than the ones they are currently. We caught up with her to find out why the campaign is so close to her heart. 

Lisa Faulkner

Lisa Faulkner

Why do you think children are eating more sugar than ever before?

I think convenience has a lot to do with it. Sugary snacks are so readily available, meaning children and parents can easily pick up a sugary snack when they out and about.

Why do you believe snacking has got so out of hand?

Snacking has become a part of our eating habits and like most children, my daughter is ‘starving’ when she gets home from school. As a busy parent, it can be very easy just to reach for a packaged snack but many of these snacks are full of sugar and so it’s really important as parents to understand what is in the food and drinks we are giving our children. Change4Life has a fantastic free Food Scanner app which quickly shows you the amount of sugar, salt, saturated fat and calories when you scan the barcode. It’s so easy to use and Billie loves using it in the supermarket and at home.

Why did you want to get involved with the new campaign that suggests limiting children to 2 100 calorie snacks per day?

As a mum, I know how hard it can be to manage my kids’ snacking habits but it is our responsibility as parents to help our kids make the right choices when it comes to snacks. I think that this new rule of thumb to ‘Look for 100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max’ will make it easier for me and other parents to choose healthier packaged snacks for our children when we are out and about.

Why are 2 100 calories snacks more than enough for children to graze on?

The ‘100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max’ snacks tip is just a rule thumb for parents when they are picking up packaged snacks for their children, but it doesn’t apply to fruit and vegetables. In fact, children are encouraged to eat a variety of fruit and vegetables to achieve their 5 a Day. It’s really easy to create delicious and healthy snacks from fruit or vegetables, such as carrot sticks and homemade hummus or apple slices with a small amount of peanut butter.

Did the findings shock you as to how many snacks children were consuming every year and what their typical daily intake was?

Yes, definitely! But, being a mother is a busy and full-time job, so I can understand how easy it is to give your kids a quick packaged snack if you are running low on time. However, what we need to remember, is that all these snacks really do add up and so that is why the simple and easy rule of thumb from Change4Life is a helpful tip for parents to keep in mind if they need to give their kid a packaged snack.

What sort of snacks do you feed your daughter?

Well, I just love cooking. So, where I can I try to prepare my own healthy snacks for my daughter such as a homemade hummous dip, with sugar snap peas, carrots and peppers. My daughter absolutely loves getting involved too and I think it is great for her to learn from a young age what is going into her food. However, you really don’t have to be a chef to make delicious and nutritious snacks. Try shop bought hummous with cucumber sticks!

How important is it for parents to set the example and stick to this rule too?

I think, we as parents, forget just how much of our children’s eating habits is derived from our own eating habits! If I am snacking on unhealthy sugary snacks throughout the day, then no doubt my daughter will think this is the norm. It’s really important to encourage a healthy attitude towards food with your children which is why no food is banned in our household. Instead it’s about having an open conversation with your kids and understanding that sugary foods and drinks are a treat and not an everyday snack.

For parents who are unsure, what other snacks are good choices and what should they avoid?

It can be hard to know what are good choices and what are not, I know I still struggle myself sometimes. But, Change4Life have released a new Food Scanner app which works by scanning the barcode of supermarket products – this allows you to instantly see what is in their snacks and helps parents to make informed snacking choices, I love it and so does my daughter!

If parents are giving out pocket money- how can they help to stop their children making bad choices?

Billie is now at an age where she has her own pocket money, so this is something I worry about. For me, I try to set a good example in the home by eating healthy and nutritious foods. However, if your children have a sugary snack every so often, that is okay too, we just do not want these sorts of choices to become habit! I always have really open conversations will Billie about what is a treat and also cook a lot with her at home and I think that also helps her understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy foods.

What is next for you?

I really enjoyed getting back into TV work with Eastenders and I would love to do more acting in the future. Cooking will always be a passion of mine and so I think it will always be part of my working life.

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