How MasterChef champion has found winning formula to keep her little one eating better snacks
Actress and mother Lisa Faulkner is right behind a Change4Life campaign promoting healthier treats by cutting down on sugar. Lisa Salmon reports
As a Celebrity MasterChef winner and mum, actress Lisa Faulkner is more aware than most of how important healthy food is for children.
And healthy food doesn't just mean eating well at mealtimes, it means eating healthy snacks too.
Lisa (45), whose daughter Billie is 11, says: "I know how easy it can be to give your children snacks based on convenience, but many of them may be packed full of sugar."
She's highlighting a serious issue. At the moment, around half of children's sugar intake - about seven sugar cubes a day - comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks, and on average, children are consuming three or four unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks a day.
This means they're having much more sugar than the recommended daily maximum of five cubes for four to six year olds and six cubes for seven to 10 year olds - fuelling obesity and dental decay.
Now Lisa, who's written three cookbooks since her MasterChef triumph in 2010 and is now the partner of the show's presenter John Torode, is supporting a new Change4Life campaign promoting healthier snacks.
Its message is that parents should 'Look for 100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max'. Lisa says following this new tip will "make it easier for me and other parents to choose healthier snacks for our children, and to give them less often".
Suggestions for tummy-filling snacks that fit into the plan include a portion of homemade popcorn, an oatmeal cookie, a thin slice of malt loaf, a bowl of sugar-free jelly, one mini Babybel or a boiled egg.
Plenty of fruit and veg
The '100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max' tip applies to all snacks apart from fruit and vegetables, as children should be encouraged to eat a variety of these to achieve their five-a-day.
As well as giving children fruit to munch, other interesting fruit and veg snacks include things like vegetable sticks with low-fat hummus, or fruit kebabs.
Eating plenty of fruit and veg isn't a problem for Lisa and Billie. "We've always eaten lots of fruits and vegetables at home - we cut up carrots and peppers to have with dips or have wedges of banana and apple with peanut butter," says Lisa.
"Because we've been having these healthy snacks for a long time now, it's become my daughter's natural instinct to choose a healthier option. As she's growing she's constantly hungry, so I'm very glad she enjoys fruits and vegetables to snack on."
Balance the unhealthy stuff
Lisa says Billie doesn't pester her for snacks too often, but explains: "When she does, we work to the rule of balance. So she's allowed to have a naughtier snack, like an iced bun, for example, on one day, but then the next day she'll have to have a healthier snack instead."
The actress - whose EastEnders character Fi Browning has just made a dramatic exit - stresses how important eating healthy snacks is, however time-pressed parents are.
"We have such busy lifestyles these days, and it's easy to just grab unhealthy snacks on the go. But when many of these snacks can be very sugary, it has a real impact on our health and can make children overweight.
"When it comes to snacks, as a parent I've found that the more prepared you are, the easier it is - although I know this can be difficult.
"It's really important to help children learn healthy habits and educate kids to be healthy in their lifestyles, which doesn't just mean eating healthily but also staying active, getting out and about with them, as well as making sure they take part in after school clubs etc."
Healthy special offers
As part of the Change4Life campaign, parents will be given special offers on a range of healthier snacks, including fruit and vegetables at selected supermarkets.
They can also get money off vouchers to try healthier snack options, including malt loaf, lower sugar fromage frais, and drinks with no added sugar.
Parents can also download Change4Life's improved Food Scanner app, which shows how many calories, sugar, saturated fat and salt are in popular snacks.