It’s been a busy few months during which time this blog has had to take a bit of a back seat, but one story from this month jumped out at me so much that I simply had to put fingers to keyboard.
The story in question was about children and snacking, a subject which seems particularly high on the agenda at this time of year. Lots of us will have a few Christmas and New Year goodies stashed away in the cupboards just begging to be eaten – those last two mince pies, that half-finished box of chocolates or the freezer full of party food because, as always, we bought too much. The temptation to snack can be almost overwhelming when there are so many leftovers and the weather outside is miserable.
Beware the Binge
It’s hard enough for adults with a decent understanding of nutrition to resist, but even harder for children. What child isn’t going to know exactly where the crisps, cakes, sweets and chocolate are hidden? It’s only natural that we’ve been more lenient over the festive period, perhaps letting them dip into advent calendars, chocolates on the tree and selection boxes when they’ve begged for long enough, but it’s often a difficult habit to wean them off once all the fun is over.
Statistics from Public Health England (PHE) suggest that primary school children are getting through an average of three sugary snacks a day, and can easily consume more than three times the recommended maximum limit for sugar. To put that into some perspective, PHE estimates that each year the average child devours the equivalent of 400 biscuits, 100 portions of sweets, 150 cans of fizzy drinks, 120 cakes, buns or pastries and 70 bars of chocolate or portions of ice cream.
However active your child might be, there’s simply no way their little bodies can fully burn off all those extra, empty calories. With a chocolate bar containing about 200 calories and some pastries containing upwards of 270 calories, bingeing on unhealthy snacks is having a major impact on childhood obesity rates.
Of course Harrison and I aren’t averse to chocolate and a bag of crisps when the fancy takes us – it’s a very unusual person who doesn’t allow themselves a little indulgence or satisfy a craving now and then! Since beginning this weight loss journey, however, we’ve found there are plenty of healthy and guilt-free alternatives which fill a corner when you’re peckish.
I’m clearly not a fan of over-processed foods so we’ve recently been getting into snacks from Fruit Bowl, which tick the box when you want something sweet but are all entirely natural and under 100 calories. They’re small enough to squeeze into a lunch box for a break-time pick-me-up and quite often Harrison’s go-to snack when he gets in from school.
We’re also into other healthy alternatives to crisps, such as Snack-a-Jacks or rice cakes spread with a little peanut butter. Nuts are another of Harrison’s favourites, and we also regularly bake the healthy snacks you’ll find in the recipe section of this site – the sweet potato brownies and double chocolate protein cookies always go down a treat, particularly if we’re getting back from a fitness class and need a little energy boost.
It’s not always easy to steer clear of the fatty, sugary snacks children naturally want to have, particularly when they get to secondary school and have that little bit more independence and spending money of their own. With Public Health England recommending that parents keep snacks to under 100 calories, now seems like the best time of year to make a fresh start, open the cupboards and think a bit harder about the things we’re giving our kids to eat.