North Yorkshire County Council is supporting a campaign designed to get the county’s families ‘Be Food Smart’ and take control of their children’s diets.

The new Be Food Smart campaign from Public Health England (PHE) is part of the wider PHE Change4Life campaign, and its launch follows findings that children consume half the daily recommended sugar intake before the morning school bell rings.

Children in England consume more than 11g of sugar at breakfast time alone, almost 3 sugar cubes. The recommended daily maximum is no more than five cubes of sugar for 4- to 6-year-olds and no more than six cubes for 7- to 10-year-olds per day. By the end of the day, children consume more than three times these recommendations.

Recent reports show that childhood obesity in England has reached alarming rates. In North Yorkshire, 21.2% of four to five-year-olds are overweight or obese, increasing to 30.1% in 10 to 11-year-olds. This means they are more likely to become obese adults, who are more prone to a range of serious health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes.

Some of the main sources of sugar at breakfast time include sugary cereals, drinks, and spreads. Away from the breakfast table, children are also consuming too much sugar, saturated fat and salt in items such as confectionery, biscuits, muffins, pastries and soft drinks, which all contribute to an unhealthy diet.

PHE’s new Change4Life campaign urges parents to ‘Be Food Smart’ and take more control of their children’s diets. A new “Be Food Smart” app has been developed to highlight just how much sugar, saturated fat and salt can be found in everyday food and drink that their children consume.

The free app helps and encourages families to choose healthier options and works by scanning the barcode of products allowing parents to compare brands, and features food detective activities for children and mini missions the whole family can enjoy.

County Councillor David Chance, Executive Member for Stronger Communities and Public Health said: “The latest child obesity figures for North Yorkshire show just how important it is for families to know what they are putting on their plates.

“The new Be Food Smart App has been developed to take some of the pressure off parents and helping them to choose healthier food and drink options for their children.

“The campaign also helps parents identify the health harms of children eating and drinking too much sugar, saturated fat and salt, including becoming overweight or obese and developing tooth decay.

“We know a healthy breakfast can make an important contribution to children’s vitamin and mineral intakes and its consumption has been linked to many positive health outcomes. There are plenty of healthier options available so campaigns like Change4Life play a big part in helping busy parents make the right choices for their families.”

Tackling obesity is everyone’s responsibility, not just parents. PHE is currently working with retailers, food manufacturers and other organisations in the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar by 20% contained in products children consume.

In North Yorkshire, the amount of sugar in a child’s diet is one of the key topics being tackled by the county Council’s Healthy Lifestyle Service. The service is delivered by a county wide team of Healthy Lifestyle Advisors and provides a family-focussed package of support for children and young people aged five to 19 who are above a healthy weight.

Each family is offered a free 12-week programme during which the families take part in a range of fun and interactive session based on key lifestyle topics, complete weekly challenges and set their own personalised goals to help them on their journey. The service is not about telling families what to do but empowering them to make simple, realistic changes, whilst having fun and learning together that a healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to be boring.

The Healthy Lifestyle Service also works alongside supermarkets in order to educate and help customers to make healthier food choices when shopping.

The new free Be Food Smart app can be downloaded from the iTunes Store or Google Play to get hints and tips to cut down the amount of total sugar, saturated fat and salt in the diet.