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New health campaign aimed at getting our kids to cut back on treats

A child in Northern Ireland consumes an average of more than 16kgs of treats per year - the equivalent of approximately 140 small chocolate bars, 105 tubes of sweets, 36 packets of jam-filled biscuits and 118 bags of crisps.

And that doesn't even include foods like ice cream, cakes, pastries, buns and puddings that a child would typically eat, according to official figures. With one in four primary school children in Northern Ireland now overweight or obese, Safefood is urging parents to cut down on the availability of treats at home and offering healthier snacks instead.

Despite being urged to cut down on treats, parents are not being told to ban them completely, as that can make them more appealing. Healthier alternatives include a slice of toast with a sliced or mashed banana on top. And homemade, microwave popcorn usually has less salt than the bagged version.

Now a new health campaign will feature on television and poster advertising is to drive the message home. The website www.safefood.eu is also offering practical tips, advice and support for parents who want to start saying no to treats more often, and advice from experts on healthy eating and how to be more active.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said: "Treats can be fun for children and a short term distraction however, if they are given on a daily basis they are no longer 'treats' – they are part of the child's diet and can then contribute to long term health risks.

"It can be hard to deny our children the things that they want, but by reducing the amount of sweet treats we give our children, or by making health foods treats too, we will be helping them to eat a more balanced diet, and this will improve their health and wellbeing as they grow into adults."

Parenting NI director Charlene Brooks, said: "We've reached a point where these so-called 'treat' foods are consumed far too frequently and just aren't treats anymore – as parents, we sometimes struggle to say 'no' to our children and do not realise the harm we may be doing."

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