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Dublin: 14°C Friday 30 July 2021

Children at risk of obesity as parents bribe them with sweets and biscuits

Over consumption of these treats “is a serious threat to our children’s future health” – Safefood representative

Image: Shutterstock/Kylie Walls

PARENTS ARE BRIBING their children with unhealthy treats daily to ease difficult situations, a new report shows.

The research, which was conducted by food safety watchdog, Safefood, found that over 40% of parents give their children an unhealthy treat at least once or more a day.

Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health and nutrition at Safefood said:

Parents 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.

The report also found that 50% of Irish children five years and under are given unhealthy treats at least once or more a day.

Foley-Nolan said:

Over-consumption of these treats, and there is major over-consumption, is a serious threat to our children’s future health.

The research was carried out to coincide with the final year of Safefood’s three year campaign to tackle everyday habits which can lead to childhood obesity.

“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,” Foley-Nolan added.

The report found that 73% of parents in Ireland didn’t consider foods like crisps, chocolates and sweets on a daily basis as a treat.

Speaking on the findings Foley-Nolan said:

Parents were also surprised to learn that crisps and biscuits fall into the treats category as these have been given as daily staples for example, after school or after dinner at home.

Safefood is urging parents to reconsider giving children such treats once or more a day.

John Sharry, CEO of  Parents Plus Charity and a senior lecturer at the School of Psychology in UCD, spoke about the report and how to reduce the amount of unhealthy treats children get.

He said:

Learning to say no gently and firmly and focusing on positive healthy alternatives is the key. Make it a family project to become more healthy and happy – sit down with your children and plan out some positive changes you want to make together such as picking the alternative healthy treats you can have during the week.”

In the report, parents who reduced the amount of treats their children ate, found the most popular methods were cutting back to weekends only (30%), buying smaller sized treats (23%) and restricting treats to every other day (23%).

Safefood also created a number of tools to help parents to break the bad habits of treats and these include practical guides on the calories in popular varieties of children’s sweets, crisps and chocolates; expert videos with advice on how to cut down on treat foods and how to make healthier changes as a family.

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