Change Public Health England's new 100 calorie snack campaign

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Look for 100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max - no thanks! 

Public Health England has recently introduced a campaign encouraging parents to only allow their children two 100 calorie snacks per day (excluding fruit and vegetables). The campaign is aimed towards parents, however, the TV and radio advert appears to be aimed towards a younger audience. The catchy theme tune - 'look for 100 calorie snacks, 2 a day max!' can easily be remembered by young children and thus leads to my concern. Whilst one agrees with the promotion of healthy eating and reducing the amount of sugar in our children's diets, I disagree with using 100 calories as a mark of health. Many processed snacks are under 100 calories whereas many wholesome healthy snacks are over.

Laura Thomas (PhD, RNutr) wrote that 'kids energy requirements fluctuate daily, depending on activity levels, illness, and growth spurts. Predetermining how much a child ‘should’ eat, cajoling them to finish their snack, or not allowing them to have more if they’re really hungry can undermine their ability to self-regulate feeding based on their innate hunger & fullness cues.' This emphasises that healthy and intuitive eating is not as simple as cutting out all snacks over 100 calories. All children have different nutritional needs!

One fears that using 100 calories as a benchmark of health teaches the wrong message to children. We should be teaching them to nourish their bodies whilst having a healthy and balanced diet. Unfortunately, one feels that this campaign could trigger eating disorders for people with a predisposition at an earlier age. By focusing on calories rather than the health content of food, the promotion of 100 calorie snacks sends out the wrong message to young, impressionable children. This campaign could lead to children counting calories and restricting their diets at an younger age than many already do. 

Rather than encouraging two 100 calorie snacks per day, one believes that PHE should give more examples of healthy and balanced lunch boxes to parents. They should be trying to educate parents and children about the sugar content of foods and how to create an overall healthy diet for their child whilst creating sustainable eating habits. One also agrees in giving parents vouchers to buy healthier snacks as this will help make healthy eating more accessible to many people. By changing this campaign we can try to teach children about balanced and healthy diets whilst moving away from calorie counting and restriction. Diet culture is a massive problem within today's society and one believes that if we teach children how to nourish their bodies without depriving themselves at an early age, we can try to combat the problem. 

Healthy eating is important, but having a healthy relationship with food is more important. Children need healthy minds as well as bodies. We have a responsibility to teach children that individual needs differ and that there is no 'one size fits all' approach to nutrition. Also, we should teach children about intuitive eating rather than restriction and calorie counting. Food is fuel and is designed to be enjoyed by all - it is much more than numbers. Children need to be taught that calories are not an indicator of the health content of food.



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