A new app to help families in Stockton Borough and the wider UK make healthy food choices has been launched by Public Health England (PHE) as part of a new national Change4Life campaign which encourages parents to take control of their children’s diets.
The free app has been developed to highlight how much sugar, saturated fat and salt can be found in everyday food and drink that children may consume. It uses a simple, visual traffic light analysis of most packaged foodstuffs.
It follows findings by PHE that children in England on average consume the equivalent of three sugar cubes at breakfast time, mainly from sugary cereals, drinks, and spreads. The findings also show children are also consuming too much sugar, saturated fat and salt in items such as confectionery, biscuits, muffins, pastries and soft drinks, which all contribute to an unhealthy diet.
The recommended daily maximum is no more than five cubes of sugar for 4- to 6-year-olds and no more than six cubes for 7- to 10-year-olds per day. By the end of the day, children consume more than three times these recommendations.
Parents can use the app to scan barcodes on food products, allowing them to compare the sugar content of different brands. It also features ‘food detective’ activities for children as well as ‘mini missions’ the whole family can enjoy.
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Services, Councillor Jim Beall, said: “We do a great deal of work to encourage all of our residents to lead active, healthy lifestyles and eating a balanced diet is essential to maintaining a healthy weight.
“In Stockton Borough around a quarter of 4 to 5 year olds are overweight or obese - these latest child obesity figures show just how important it is for families to know what they are putting on their plates. The Be Food Smart App that Public Health England has developed can take some of the pressure off parents and help them to choose healthier food and drink options for their children. I’ve tried the app myself and found it to be a quick and easy way to check sugar, saturated fat and salt content, which is useful for adults as well.”
Sara Stanner, Science Director at the British Nutrition Foundation, added: “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.”
The Be Food Smart app is available to download for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Be Food Smart activity packs which include stickers and quiz cards are available for free from Stockton Borough libraries.