“100 calorie snacks, two a day max”: Public Health England launches campaign around children’s snacking


03 Jan 2018 --- Public Health England (PHE) has launched a new Change4Life campaign with the slogan “100 calorie snacks, two a day max,” which aims to encourage parents to choose healthier snacks than the ones they currently buy for their children. Selected UK supermarkets have announced their support for the campaign, while health pressure group Action on Sugar calls for more stringent action, pointing to the responsibility of food and beverage manufacturers to help prevent the overconsumption of sugar.

On average, children consume 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, leading to obesity and dental decay, PHE reports.

“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,” says Dr. Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE. “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.”

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 “5 A Day.”

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.

PHE reports that parents can also get money-off vouchers from Change4Life to help them try healthier snack options, including malt loaf, lower-sugar fromage frais and drinks with no added sugar.

Selected supermarkets are supporting the campaign: Both Tesco and Co-op have announced that they will provide healthy snacking products, to make it easier for customers to make healthier choices on the go.

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Tesco says that its initiative will help affordable healthier
snack choices that are 100 calories or less.

On its website, Tesco says that its new initiative will “help parents, shopping in-store and online, choose affordable healthier snacks that are 100 calories or less.”

The campaign, which runs for the month of January, is to appear in all Tesco stores and online at Tesco.com. It includes in-store point of sale promotional materials of healthier kids’ snacks featuring Change4Life branding. The promoted snacks will include Pink Lady Apple Snack Packs, Goodness Strawberry Cereal bars and Tesco Pineapple Pieces in Juice. Online, Tesco will use technology in partnership with nutrition website SpoonGuru to allow customers to quickly find 130 healthier snacks containing 100 calories or less.

Weighing in on the new campaign, Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chairman of Action on Sugar, tells NutritionInsight: “The findings about children’s daily sugar intake are shocking and need to be a stark reminder to the government that we urgently need a revised and robust childhood obesity strategy to help tackle the country’s escalating obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemic – not to mention the cost of treating tooth decay.” 

MacGregor points to the role of the government as well as food and beverage manufacturers in tackling sugar-overconsumption.

“Tactics need to include mandatory product reformulation, clear front of pack color-coded labeling and a ban on promotions on foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar as well as tighter restrictions on marketing and advertising which hugely influence children’s food and drink preferences,” he says. “It’s ludicrous that billions of pounds are being spent by food and drink manufacturers on such promotions and publicity which will simply outweigh the benefits of this campaign. While parents do have a responsibility to take control of their children’s snacking, so do food and drink manufacturers and the government.”

In particular, the group emphasizes the need for clear labeling. 

“Consistent labels allow shoppers, at a glance, to see the huge variation in sugar levels. Companies need to reduce the sugar levels now by working towards the sugar targets by 2020  - and proudly display this on their front of pack nutrition labels,” Jenny Rosborough, campaign manager at Action on Sugar, tells NutritionInsight.

“The current UK obesity plan has given the food and soft drink industry free rein to market, and put price promotions on foods and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) to both children and adults. It is vital that only non-HFSS foods and drinks can be marketed and promoted, including in-store price promotions."

By Lucy Gunn

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