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A healthy snack

Finding healthy snacks your child will deign to put between their lips can feel like an impossible task. Change4Life is supporting parents in making healthier choices and reducing sugar intake, with a rule of thumb to keep children's snacks to around 100 calories each, and limited to two a day. We posed your questions on the campaign to Change4Life; read their answers below, and don't forget to enter our competition to win a Love2Shop voucher worth £250

Are snack bars and breakfast bars actually healthy? They often show low calories, so might fit into these new guidelines, but when you look closely at the nutritional value their sugar content is really concerning.

Snack bars and breakfast bars can often be high in sugar, so it is always important to check the labels in order to find the healthiest options. Use the traffic light system on nutritional labels and opt for more greens and ambers, as these are the better choices.

Are there plans to incorporate the Change4Life guidelines into nursery or pre-school settings? I am often surprised at the amount of foods I would consider unhealthy treats that my child has eaten there.

Public Health England has recently published example menus along with guidance about providing food in Early Years Settings. These can be used to help nurseries and preschool settings make sure that the food they provide is part of a healthy balanced diet for children. You can find them by clicking here.

Why does Change4Life recommend low fat foods, especially low fat dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt for children? I thought that children (especially toddlers and younger children) needed a higher proportion of fat in their diet than adults?

The fat in full fat milk provides calories for young children and also contains essential vitamins. But children over two years, and who are growing well, can have semi-skimmed milk. It's a good idea to introduce little ones to the taste of lower-fat milks and lower fat dairy products early as having too much fat in the diet over time can result in unwanted weight gain.

Do children actually need snacks? Does their blood sugar vary more than adults, or can they skip snacks if they’re not hungry between meals?

Snacks can be eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet and can be a great opportunity to encourage your child to eat more fruits and vegetables. If your child is growing well, then snacking between meals is optional, if they are not hungry it may be that they are getting enough food at meal times.

What is your opinion on swapping sugar in home baking for alternative sweeteners such as stevia?

Sweeteners can be a useful tool in helping to cut down on sugar, although it’s best to try and avoid encouraging kids to have a sweet tooth at all. Artificial sweeteners sold in the UK undergo a rigorous safety assessment before they can be used.

From what age does the 100 calorie snack rule apply? My daughter is seven months old. What would be suitable calorie-wise to feed her as a snack? I don’t want to overfeed her.

Change4Life advice is for families with children around the ages of 4-10 years. The 100 calorie snacks, two a day max tip is to help parents with older children choose healthier snacks. This rule of thumb is not suitable for seven month olds but we do have lots of information on feeding your baby on the Start4Life website. This website provides more suitable information for parents with babies and toddlers. Follow the link for the Start4Life website.

Muesli bars made with oats and fruits often have the same percentage of sugar by weight as biscuits made with white flour and refined sugars. Are muesli bars actually any healthier than biscuits? Is there any benefit in choosing them over biscuits with a similar sugar profile?

Muesli bars can be suprisingly high in sugar so it is always important to check the labels in order to find healthier options. Regularly having foods that are high in sugar can lead to the build up of harmful fats and can cause painful tooth decay. Use the traffic lights to go for more greens and ambers and cut down on reds.

What advice would you give to make sure our children have a good, healthy relationship with food, and their bodies?

It’s important to be a healthy role model for your children. Children often follow what their parents do, so if we have healthy balanced diets ourselves, then our children are more likely to do the same. If you are concerned about your child’s relationship with food and their body, seek advice from a health professional.

How do processed fruit bars and pureed fruit pots compare to actual fruit in terms of nutrition?

You don’t need to worry about the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables as they do not contain free sugars whereas fruit bars and pureed fruit pots do contain free sugars which can cause tooth decay. It is also important to keep dried fruit, fruit and vegetable juices to mealtimes only to protect your teeth.


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