Northern Ireland parents still feed children snacks high in sugar and fat
Unhealthy snacking habits could be fuelling an obesity crisis in Northern Ireland, experts have warned.
More than one-third of parents regularly give their children crisps alongside or between meals.
And one-quarter never opt for nibbles which are low in fat and sugar.
The findings emerged after a survey commissioned by the National Charity Partnership, a tie-up between Diabetes UK, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and Tesco.
Katherine Hale from the National Charity Partnership said: "Eating foods high in fat and sugar on a regular basis can contribute to increased calorie consumption - which can then increase the likelihood of being overweight.
"It's particularly concerning crisps and biscuits are still popular snacks for children because the food habits we learn at a young age can become ingrained and stay with us into adulthood.
"By developing unhealthy habits, you may be risking your family's health. Regularly consuming 'empty calories' from snacks that contain lots of calories but little to no nutrients heightens your risk of obesity and the long-term conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease associated with this."
The survey, published today, found that:
• 50% of all adults in Northern Ireland worry about the extra calories their families consume through unhealthy snacks,
• yet more than one in four (26%) never actively choose nibbles that are low in fat and sugar;
• 34% of parents here are still regularly offering crisps to their children as snacks either alongside or between meals.
As a new school year begins, the National Charity Partnership is launching its Snack Goals Challenge aimed at encouraging families to opt for healthy snacks to curb junk food cravings and improve their long-term health.
The partnership is encouraging people to set a goal to 'eat healthy snacks' using its online eight-week challenge.
Ms Hale said: "Snacks are usually small and can seem insignificant.
"However, the reality is that the calories they provide can really add up, especially for children.
"By making a change now and taking our Snack Goals Challenge to swap to healthier snacks, it will help you stay on track and kick those bad snacking habits."
The most common reason why people in Northern Ireland shun snacks low in fat, sugar or salt is that it is not convenient (31%).