The Dentist Magazine.

Half the sugar children consume comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks

Published: 02/01/2018

New Change4Life campaign encourages parents to, “Look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day max” to cut children’s sugar intake.

Public Health England (PHE) is helping parents take control of their children’s snacking by launching the first Change4Life campaign promoting healthier snacks.

This is because half of children’s sugar intake, currently around seven sugar cubes a day, comes from unhealthy snacks and sugary drinks, leading to obesity and painful tooth decay.

Each year children are consuming almost 400 biscuits; more than 120 cakes, buns and pastries; around 100 portions of sweets; nearly 70 of both chocolate bars and ice creams; washed down with over 150 juice drink pouches and cans of fizzy drink.

On average, children are consuming 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.

The new Change4Life campaign encourages parents to, “Look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day max” to help them purchase healthier snacks than the ones they are currently.

Parents will be signposted and given special offers on a range of healthier snacks, including fruit and vegetables at selected supermarkets. They can also get money-off vouchers for electric toothbrushes for children, as well as for healthier snack options.

PHE will distribute Change4Life toolkits to dental health teams around England. These feature practical advice for parents, including Top Tips For Teeth based on Delivering Better Oral Health (DBOH). These are the first Change4Life resources specifically aimed at preventing poor oral health.

Many of the unhealthy snacks children consume regularly are high in sugar and also typically high in calories, for example:

  • An ice-cream contains around 175 calories

  • A pack of crisps contains around 190 calories

  • A chocolate bar contains around 200 calories

  • A pastry contains around 270 calories

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.

Sandra White, national lead for Dental Public Health, said, “While we know too much sugar can lead to tooth decay, parents can often find it challenging to manage their children’s snacking habits.

“This tip from Change4Life will make it easier for parents to reduce their children’s sugar intake, and our dental toolkit will help dental teams to support families make healthier choices.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said, “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.

“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.

PHE’s improved 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.

With one in four five-year-olds experiencing tooth decay and a third of children leaving primary school overweight or obese, reducing children’s sugar consumption requires wider action and is not just limited to individual efforts from parents. PHE is working with the food industry to cut 20 per cent of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020, with work to reduce calories due to start in 2018.