Over 40% of Irish parents give their children sweets daily

Research shows majority of parents do not consider sweets and chocolate as ‘treats’

Research from Safefood has shown children aged five and under were the age group given the most daily “treats” at 50 per cent. Photograph: Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Research from Safefood has shown children aged five and under were the age group given the most daily “treats” at 50 per cent. Photograph: Cate Gillon/Getty Images

 

More than 40 per cent of Irish parents are giving their children unhealthy treats like chocolate, crisps and sweets more than once a day.

The new research from Safefood, the food safety promotion board, published on Monday showed the majority of parents (73 per cent) did not consider these types of foods as treats.

Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition at Safefood, said an over consumption of these treats was a “serious threat” to children’s health.

“As parents, we need to break the bad habits of giving these every day as it’s now become the norm and not really a ‘treat’ anymore,” she said.

“ Parents are really finding this difficult and these products are simply empty calories.”

Children aged five and under were the age group given the most daily “treats” at 50 per cent.

Childhood obesity is the most prevalent childhood illness in Europe and 22 per cent of Irish 5 - 12 year olds are obese or overweight..

Dr Foley-Nolan said it was a surprise for many parents involved in the survey to learn that crisps and biscuits fell into treats category.

“They have told us that they consider this daily food treating as ‘bribing up their kids’ - they routinely give these to ease any difficult situations that arose during the day and to allow themselves a little more peace and quiet. However parents also told us they are uneasy about this behaviour,” she said.

The research, which surveyed 833 adults, was carried out ahead of the organisation’s campaign to tackle everyday habits that could lead to childhood obesity.

It also showed the most popular way parents successfully cut back treats were only allowing them at weekends, buying smaller sized goods and restricting them to every other day.

“It is great to see that some parents report making these practical changes,” Dr Foley-Nolan said.

“Parents say that it’s not easy to cut down on these treats especially when they are everywhere, are so cheap and children are used to overindulging in them.

“If you don’t buy them in the first place, your children won’t constantly ask you for them”.

John Sharry, chief executive of Parents Plus Charity and senior lecturer at the School of Psychology in University College Dublin, said it could be a family project to become more healthy and happy.

“It takes time and patience to break bad habits around treats and food - but the good news is it can be done,” he said.

“ Learning to say ‘no’ gently and firmly and focusing on positive healthy alternatives is the key.”