START campaign encouraging parents to take a step towards a healthier and happier family lifestyle

New research reveals families spent on average €160 on treat foods like crisps, chocolate and biscuits during April 2022.

The START campaign from safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland is encouraging parents to take a step towards a healthier family lifestyle by reducing the amount of treats they give their children. Parents told the campaign they are aware that the amount of treats in their families’ diet has increased and would welcome advice on how they can reduce this.

The latest supermarket shopping data, analysed for the START campaign, reveals that families with children spent on average approximately €746 on take home groceries in the four weeks to 17 April 2022. Of this, €159 (21 percent ) was spent on foods like biscuits, crisps and chocolate; while €49 (6.6 percent ) was spent on fruit and €37 (five percent ) on vegetables. This is an increase in spend on treats compared to previous campaign research³, which showed that families spent on average 19 percent of their food budget on treat foods, 10 percent on fruit and seven percent on vegetables.

“We know that parents and guardians want to do their best, and find the practical tips and advice at helpful. However, we also know that the environment we live in makes it hard for parents and children to go easy on the treats. They are all around us and the food industry invests heavily in the marketing and promotion of these products on TV, online, in-store, in public spaces and more. While costs are rising for everyday foods like milk or bread, products like crisps and chocolate have not seen the same price increases. This can make it harder for families when they are trying to ensure their weekly shop contains the right balance of foods. So while we know it’s difficult, we’re encouraging families to talk about small changes they can make and to visit for tips and advice,” Sarah O’Brien, National Lead for the HSE’s Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme, said.

Latest data from the CSO shows that price increases for foods like crisps, confectionary and soft drinks ranged from 1.9 percent to 2.2 percent in the past 12 months. This compares with increases ranging from 0.3 percent for vegetables and 1.8 percent for fruit, 4.7 percent for meat, 8.1 percent for bread and 8.9 percent for milk.

“Parents know the impact that the past two years has had on their family’s life and the pressures that they face, especially with household food budgets tightening. Parents are trying to reduce treats but they need some support in achieving that; whether it’s advice on how to make a plan as a family to go easy on the treats; not buying as many when shopping; or guidance on how to talk to others in your family circle about offering smaller treats and not every day. All families have different circumstances so it’s about choosing what works for you and your children and making a start with that to make healthier choices.”

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist Dr Colman Noctor added: “Parents and guardians don’t want to be applauded for making the correct but difficult decision to reduce treats for their children. Approaching this as a family together and making sure your children understand why you are doing this, will make you far more likely to succeed. This will also help form healthier eating habits to last a lifetime. If parents have a question on how they can get started, just head over to safe food and HSE’s Instagram,” Dr Aileen McGloin, Director of Nutrition with safefood, continued.

The START campaign aims to support parents and guardians to talk to children about reducing treats as a family and minimise intake of foods high in fat, salt and sugar. The campaign website includes lots of practical advice and support on how to reduce treats, ideas for healthy snacks and advice from parenting experts.


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