Strict 'five-a-day' rule sidelined in new bid to fight child obesity
Strict healthy living rules like aiming for 'five a day' have been sidelined in a new campaign to tackle child obesity.
Families instead are being encouraged to take small steps to improve their dietary and exercise habits.
Previous campaigns have spotlighted goals which may be unreachable, including consuming 'five a day' of fruit and vegetables.
But for many families the targets are daunting and the waistlines of the nation's children have continued to expand.
At least one-in-five children is now overweight or obese.
The new drive from Safefood says families should have the attitude to "never fail to make an attempt".
"A half-hour less of screen time daily is a win," said Safefood chief Ray Dolan.
Moving from two pieces of fruit and veg a day to three "is progress".
Tips for parents include having a list of rewards in stock for eating healthier.
Children can make their own suggestions for the list.
This might include "big ticket" items, or a game of football, a trip to the playground, disco dancing at home, special time with parents in the evening, an extra bedtime story or choosing a DVD for the weekend.
The advice is never to bribe children with treat foods in order to encourage them to eat healthier.
Orders, such as "you won't get any sweets until you finish your vegetables", are banned.
This is because it gives them the message that "healthy foods are not enjoyable but must be endured to get unhealthy rewards".
Set certain times when children are allowed to have treat foods - for instance on Fridays or weekends - and be consistent. The advice is that if they ask for treats on any other day, be firm and remind them that treats are only allowed on certain days.
Families should also "think ahead" and have healthier snacks on hand when they are out, to avoid high-calorie junk food.
These can include popcorn, fruit or nuts.
The back-up material can be found at makeastart.ie.
It includes a diary to make a note of when children have fizzy drinks and treats, as many families find it impossible to keep track of how many are consumed weekly.