Families will be given support to help to improve the diets of their children through a new campaign as new statistics reveal the number of parents giving unhealthy snacks to their children has increased during the pandemic.
The NHS Food Scanner App has been updated as part of the Better Health campaign, which has been launched to encourage families to eat better. The App includes a new ‘scan, swipe and swap’ feature which provides a simple solution to help families maintain a healthier diet.
The easy-to-use NHS app is free to download from the App Store or Google Play and identifies foods and drinks that are high in sugar, saturated fat and salt and offers healthier alternatives by simply scanning a product’s barcode. The App uses a ‘Good Choice’ badge to help signpost people to healthier food and drinks in line with the government’s dietary recommendations for added sugar, saturated fat and salt.
The campaign comes on the back of a record rise in obesity amongst children since the start of the pandemic, with latest data highlighting that nearly 38% of Black children of reception school age are overweight or obese, rising to 52% in Year 6 (ages 10-11).
Mother of two Nina Malone uses the NHS Food Scanner App whilst shopping with her children. “The app was so easy to use and very child friendly,” says Nina. “My children enjoyed scanning – and the bright colours and fun animations made it really engaging for them!”
A new survey conducted by Netmums, focusing on children’s nutrition, revealed that 67% of Black parents give their children more sugary or fatty snacks than before the pandemic and 75% said they worry about how healthy their children’s snacks really are. Most Black parents (48%) said they find it hard to say no to their children when they pester them for snacks, and that crisps or chocolate were the snacks they were most likely to give them.
When asked about the biggest barriers to their children eating more healthily, Black parents cited their children’s fussy eating habits, being pestered for unhealthy snacks, and there not being enough choices that appealed to their children. The survey also found that 94% of Black parents said that they would benefit from an app to help them make better food choices for their children.
The government recently established the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, which is focused on addressing inequalities and levelling up health across the country – including through work to tackle obesity and the drivers of poor health.
Public Health Minister Maggie Throup said: “We know that families have felt a lot of pressure from the pandemic which drastically changed habits and routines. The new year is a good time for making resolutions, not just for ourselves, but for our families. Finding ways to improve their health is one of the best resolutions any of us could make. By downloading the free NHS Food Scanner App families can swap out foods from the weekly shop for healthier alternatives and avoid items high in salt, sugar and saturated fat.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at the Department of Health and Social Care, said: “We are all aware of the increased pressures families have been under throughout the pandemic with children being stuck at home more. With advertising promoting unhealthy foods to kids, it’s not surprising that parents say they’ve often found it hard to resist pestering from their children for more unhealthy snacks, and that is why the NHS Food Scanner App is a great tool to help families make quick and easy healthier swaps. It’s so important that children reduce the amount of sugary, fatty and salty foods they eat to help them stay healthy and reduce the risk of health problems such as diabetes and tooth decay.”
Shola Oladipo, Registered Dietitian, said: “It can be difficult not to give into our children’s demands when they’re hungry – that’s why it’s so important to ensure the cupboards are always stocked with nutritious snacks! The NHS Food Scanner App is a great way to find healthier alternatives for your children’s favourites that will fuel them throughout the day. Getting your children involved in shopping and meal planning also helps to educate them about healthy food habits, and the app provides a fun and engaging way to do that.”
The NHS Food Scanner App provides parents with an easy way to improve their children’s health in 2022. Download the free app from the App Store or Google Play or search ‘Food Scanner App’.
For more information, visit http://www.nhs.uk/better-health/food-scanner