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Parents heed advice to cut down on kids' fizzy drinks and big portions

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Parents are increasingly making healthier choices for their children, giving them water at mealtimes, smaller portions and fewer fizzy drinks.

Research by Safefood found that last year the consumption of water at mealtimes went up by 7pc to 38pc.

In 2013 around 45pc of children drank a fizzy drink once a day or more, but last year this dropped to 40pc.

Last year 16pc of parents said they served "age appropriate" portion sizes compared with 12pc in 2013.

The findings also showed 65pc of children are getting at least one hour's exercise each day, compared with 59pc in 2013.

Some 33pc of parents were giving their child a treat food at least once a day in 2013, but this fell to 24pc last year.

The research was carried out to coincide with the first year of Safefood's three-year campaign to tackle the everyday habits which can lead to childhood obesity.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said: "It's really heartening to see that families are paying closer attention to their children's diet and physical activity. Childhood obesity is one of the biggest risks to this nation's future health.

"It looks like families are increasingly conscious of how even small changes to children's diet and physical activity can make a big difference. I want to commend everyone who has made those small but significant changes to their diets and lifestyles."

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition at Safefood, added: "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 over-indulging, but parents are making really important changes. It's vital now to keep up this positive momentum for the health of our children. At present, approximately one in four primary school children are overweight or obese."

Irish Independent