Children consume half the daily recommended sugar intake before the morning school bell rings, according to Public Health England (PHE).
Children in England consume more than 11g of sugar at breakfast time alone, almost 3 sugar cubes. The recommended daily maximum is no more than 5 cubes of sugar for 4 to 6 year olds and no more than 6 cubes for 7 to 10 year olds per day. By the end of the day children have consumed more than 3 times these recommendations.
A survey conducted for PHE’s Change4Life campaign found that parents are unsure what makes up a healthy breakfast for their children. It found that of those parents whose child was consuming the equivalent of 3 or more sugar cubes in their breakfast, over 8 in 10 parents (84%) considered their child’s breakfast as healthy.
Some of the main sources of sugar at breakfast time include sugary cereals, drinks and spreads. Away from the breakfast table children are also consuming too much sugar, saturated fat and salt in items such as confectionery, biscuits, muffins, pastries and soft drinks These all contribute to an unhealthy diet.
PHE’s new Change4Life campaign urges parents to Be Food Smart and take more control of their children’s diets. A new Be Food Smart app has been developed to highlight just how much sugar, saturated fat and salt can be found in everyday food and drink that their children consume.
The free app helps and encourages families to choose healthier options and works by scanning the barcode of products allowing parents to compare brands, and features food detective activities for children and mini missions the whole family can enjoy.
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist, Public Health England, said:
Children have far too much sugar, and a lot of it is before their first lesson of the day. It’s crucial for children to have a healthy breakfast, but we know the mornings in a busy household can be fraught.
That’s why we’ve developed our Be Food Smart App, taking some of the pressure off parents and helping them to choose healthier food and drink options for their children.
The campaign also helps parents identify the health harms of children eating and drinking too much sugar, saturated fat and salt, including becoming overweight or obese and developing tooth decay.
Recent reports show that childhood obesity in England has reached alarming rates. More than 1 in 5 children start primary school overweight or obese, rising to more than a third by the time they leave.
Commenting on the latest research findings, Sara Stanner, Science Director at the British Nutrition Foundation said:
When analysing a number of breakfasts from families across England, we were concerned to see the high amount of free sugars and low amount of fibre in many of these.
We know a healthy breakfast can make an important contribution to children’s vitamin and mineral intakes and its consumption has been linked to many positive health outcomes. There are plenty of healthier options available so we need campaigns like Change4Life to help busy parents make the right choices for their families.
Tackling obesity is everyone’s responsibility, not just parents. PHE is currently working with retailers, food manufacturers and other organisations in the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar by 20% contained in products children consume. Eight in 10 parents (81%) surveyed support this action and believe food manufacturers have a responsibility to reduce sugar in their products.
Download the new free Be Food Smart app from the iTunes Store or Google Play to get hints and tips to cut down the amount of total sugar, saturated fat and salt in your family’s diet.
- Find out more about Change4Life
PHE commissioned research which consisted of an online survey using Bilendi’s panel and took place in November 2016. The survey was completed by 200 parents of children aged between 4 and 10 years about their child’s breakfast. Approximately half of the respondents answered questions about a weekday breakfast and half about a weekend breakfast. Fieldwork was conducted in England only. The British Nutrition Foundation also analysed the breakfasts of those who took part in the survey.
- Find out more about the Childhood Obesity Plan.
Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Follow us on Twitter: @PHE_uk and Facebook: www.facebook.com/PublicHealthEngland.