safefood urges parents to cut down on lunch time treats to help reverse increasing childhood obesity levels in Ireland

7 November, 2005. safefood, the Food Safety Promotion Board, has issued advice urging parents to do their homework on nutritional lunches for Irish children. Research conducted by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA) has revealed that one in four parents say they find it difficult to provide healthy foods for their children. An information leaflet entitled "What you need to know about healthy lunch boxes", has been developed by safefood to give simple advice to parents on convenient and nutritional lunch box favourites. This leaflet is available from the safefood helpline on 1850 404567. Further advice can also be found on www.safefood.eu

The research further reveals that on average, one fifth of the calorie and fat content in Irish children’s diets comes from ‘treat’ foods such as confectionary, chocolate, crisps, cake and biscuits. Dr Marian Faughnan, Nutritionist with safefood, commented, “It’s really important to provide children with good eating habits from an early age as a balanced diet is crucial for a child’s development. In order to protect children from the health risks associated with being overweight, fruit and vegetable intake should be encouraged and at the same time a reduction in fatty foods like crisps, biscuits and chocolate. We don’t want to take the fun out of food for kids but maintaining a balance between nutritious and ‘treat’ foods is essential.”

The IUNA research reveals that 20% of boys and 23% of girls in Ireland are overweight or obese. Furthermore, in research conducted by safefood, it was revealed that 62% of people said they were concerned about obesity among children*. The food children consume can have an impact on their well-being, with some evidence showing that diet can in fact affect performance in the classroom. Complications which can arise later in life as a result of an unhealthy diet include heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. The benefits of preventing this trend through education at a young age should not be underestimated.

A collaborative study between University College Dublin (UCD) and Queens University Belfast (QUB) shows that 9 out of 10 children have their lunches prepared by either a parent or guardian. This outlines the need for this group to ensure that a healthy balance is maintained**. The preliminary research into children’s lunchboxes goes on to reveal that 47% of the lunchboxes analysed in the study did not contain any fruit or vegetables, while 73% did not contain any dairy

Healthy and nutritious lunches can include a variety of tasty foods. To help provide children with a balanced diet, it is recommended to include a variety of carbohydrate foods like rice, pasta and breads, one or more portion of fruit and vegetables, one portion of dairy foods each day and small amounts of deli meats, fish like tuna or salmon or vegetable alternatives.

Ends

For further information please contact

Andrew Hyland    
WHPR       
Tel: 01 6690030      
087 9088 322 (Andrew)

Fiona Gilligan
safefood
Tel: 01 4480600

*safetrak 2 safefood Market Research– January 2004

** Preliminary results taken from an ongoing collaborative study entitled ‘ Food Practices in the Home – What are the Risks?’. The study was funded by safefood and was conducted by the Department of Food Science at Queens’ University, Belfast and the Department of Agribusiness Extension and Rural Development at University College Dublin.