Since the beginning of the pandemic, surveys show that parents in the UK have been allowing their children to snack on more unhealthy food, which likely contributes to the record rise in obesity among 10- to 11-year-olds across the nation.
Other factors include lockdowns, school closures, and the suspension of sports activities, all of which mean that children are spending less time doing physical activity than they were in the past. More time indoors also leads to more screen time, likely increasing children’s exposure to advertisements of unhealthy snacks and takeaway services which could potentially influence their food choices.
The most recent data indicates that one in four primary school-aged children are overweight or obese, and this number only rises to four in 10 once children reach Year 6 (between 10 and 11 years of age).
Another survey conducted collaboratively by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and UK parenting website Netmums shows that almost six in 10 parents have been providing their children with more sugary or fatty food since the dawn of the pandemic.
To help families switch to healthier food, the government has added a new feature to their app as part of the Better Health campaign. The new app scans the barcodes of selected shopping items and then offers up alternatives with less saturated fat, sugar, or salt. When the NHS Food Scanner app comes across a health item, users will be shown a “Good Choice” badge.
According to public health minister Maggie Throup, the increased stress and “pressure” that families are under due to the pandemic means that dietary habits had “drastically changed.”
“It’s not surprising that parents say they’ve often found it hard to resist pestering from their children for more unhealthy snacks, and that is why the NHS Food Scanner App is a great tool to help families make quick and easy healthier swaps,” says Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at the DHSC. “It’s so important that children reduce the amount of sugary, fatty, and salty foods they eat to help them stay healthy and reduce the risk of health problems such as diabetes and tooth decay.”