Saturday 21 September 2019

Are your kids eating too many treat foods? Here are simple swaps they won't notice

Safefood's campaign has seen a reduction in children eating sugary snacks
Safefood's campaign has seen a reduction in children eating sugary snacks Newsdesk Newsdesk

Are your kids eating too many treat foods?

Safefood, the Irish organisation which gives advice and information on healthy eating, recommends a few simple swaps to help your children cut down on the amount of treats they eat.

Treat foods provide calories, sugar and fat, but don’t provide a lot of nourishment for children.

Currently, around a fifth of Irish children’s food intake is made up of treats.

But treats should be given "not every day, maximum once or twice a week", Safefood says.

How to reduce the number of treats your children eat


Crisps for plain popcorn or vegetable sticks

Sweets for fruit, like grapes or berries                                       

Dessert-type yoghurts for a cracker and cheese

Sugary drinks for milk or water

Chocolate for yoghurt

Don't use treats as rewards

"Using food as a reward teaches children to connect food with a good or bad behaviour," according to Safefood. "Instead reward children with praise and encouragement."

"It can also help if you make a list of non-food rewards, so that when your child behaves, they know what the reward may be. These can be smaller incentives or ‘big ticket’ items they can achieve over time. "

Non food rewards:


Extra story at night

Extra play time

Trip to the playground

Trip to the cinema

Cards (football, superheroes etc.)

Fancy stationary items

A bit of pocket money

Tips for getting started

Other tips to cut down on treat foods

  • Cut down on treat foods, but don't ban them. Banning them makes them more appealing.
  • Reduce the amount of treat foods eaten gradually, for example if treats are eaten every day reduce them to every second day, then every third, and so on.
  • Lead by example – make changes together as a family, children learn from the adults in their lives.
  • Keep portion sizes small – choose mini or snack versions
  • Shopping is a danger time – just buy treats sometimes and don’t have a supply at home. If they’re not in the house, they can’t be eaten. 
  • When you have sugary foods, eat them with a meal. It’s better for their teeth and means they won’t fill up on treats between meals
  • Say the kitchen is closed when mealtimes are over, but allow them access to healthy snacks such as fruit, chopped vegetables and water and then send them off to play.

For more information, see Safefood's website

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