A leading nutrition specialist says more local parents are replacing fizzy drinks with water and serving up smaller meal portions in a bid to stop their children becoming fat.
Dr Marian Faughnan, Chief Specialist in Nutrition, at safefood, made the revelation as the cross-border food safety and nutrition body published new research to coincide with the first year of their three year campaign to tackle the everyday habits which can lead to childhood obesity.
She said: “The research revealed a significant increase in the daily consumption of water by children at meal times (+15%) and a reduction in the daily consumption of fizzy drinks (- five per cent).
“It also found that parents are now serving more age-appropriate portion sizes to children (+7%) and an increase in the amount of children getting one hour of physical activity per day (+ 16 per cent).
“The findings highlighted a significant increase in awareness among parents that excess weight in childhood is associated with poorer health in later life (+16 per cent) and that more parents were open to discussing the issue of their child’s weight if they needed to (+21 per cent).”
Health Minister Jim Wells said: “I am grateful for all efforts to address overweight and obesity in our society. Safefood is an important delivery partner in my Department’s Obesity Prevention Strategy, ‘A Fitter Future For All’, and they contribute to public information campaigns that are designed to make both parents and children think more about their eating habits and encourage them to be more physically active in their daily routine.
“It is vital that we continue to raise public awareness of the risks to long term health that obesity can bring and endeavour to change behaviours that lead to a healthier lifestyle.”
Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood continued: “Parents are making concrete efforts to develop everyday habits associated with a healthy weight in childhood. While it’s really encouraging and heartening to see that parents report making these practical changes, it’s much too early to say that we’ve won the battle against childhood obesity.
“As a society we didn’t reach this child weight crisis overnight nor will it be solved in one year but these results highlight that our campaign messages have really resonated with parents.
“It’s not easy to cut down on sugary foods when children have become used to overindulging but parents are making really important changes; it’s vital now to keep up this positive momentum for the health of our children.”
The three year, all island campaign to take on childhood obesity by safefood in partnership with the ‘Fitter Futures for All’ Implementation Plan in Northern Ireland and the HSE and Healthy Ireland Framework in the Republic of Ireland, urges parents to make practical changes to everyday lifestyle habits which would make a big difference to their children’s future health.
Dr Tracy Owen from the Public Health Agency (PHA) added: “Childhood is a crucial time to establish healthy eating and physical activity behaviours for later life. While the findings of this research show that we are moving in the right direction, there is still much more to be done.
“Parents and carers have a key role in instilling a culture of eating well and engaging in physical activity from an early age. This will help ensure that children are then equipped with the knowledge and opportunity to make healthier choices throughout their lives.”
To find out more about the safefood campaign including how-to videos from health experts and practical advice for parents, visit: www.safefood.eu.