Footy-mad kids from Kent and their families will be encouraged to cut down on sugar thanks to a new partnership between the Kent FA, Kent County Council (KCC) and the NHS.
Football clubs across the county are being asked to run ‘Sugar Smart Tournaments’ this year, as part of a new Change4Life campaign by Public Health England (PHE) to help tackle growing rates of childhood obesity.
Kent FA are working with public health experts at KCC to promote the scheme, which will encourage clubs to offer fresh fruit and water in place of fizzy drinks, chocolate and sweets at their annual youth tournaments to show their commitment to the health and wellbeing of their youth players and their families.
According to PHE, on average, children are consuming eight more sugar cubes every day than the recommended amount, equivalent to around 2,800 excess sugar cubes per year. Children have already exceeded the maximum recommended sugar intake for an 18-year-old by the time they reach their 10th birthday.
The Kent FA has 33,000 youth players aged from four to 18-years-old. The Sugar Smart Tournaments scheme will be launched at a Futsal session in February 2019. Darryl Haden, CEO at Kent FA said: “We are really excited to begin this partnership in Kent. Sugar intake is having a serious impact on childhood obesity. This is a great opportunity for the Kent FA to promote a healthier lifestyle for our young players with sugar swaps; and it is something I hope that the Kent Football Family will get behind and support with us.”
Recent data show childhood obesity has reached alarming rates. According to figures for 2017/18, nearly 21 per cent of four to five-year-olds are overweight or obese in Kent, increasing to 33 per cent in 10 to 11-year-olds.
KCC Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark said: “This partnership is a great opportunity to reach a huge number of children and their parents. It’s fantastic that they’re being active but we know that poor diet and too much sugar is a growing issue and is the key contributor to the growing obesity rates seen both nationally and locally in Kent. Reducing the amount of sugar children consume can often be a challenge for parents but by asking them to ‘Make a swap when you next shop’, we’re making it easier for families to find healthier options of the foods they love.”
Overweight or obese children are more likely to be overweight or obese as adults, increasing their risk of heart disease and some cancers, while more young people than ever are developing Type 2 diabetes. Excess sugar can also lead to painful tooth decay, with around 16 percent of five-year-olds in Kent having tooth decay.
The Change4Life campaign encourages parents to make simple everyday swaps that can reduce children’s sugar intake from some products (yoghurts, drinks and breakfast cereals) by half – while giving them healthier versions of the foods and drinks they enjoy. Parents can try swapping:
- a higher-sugar yoghurt (e.g. split-pot) for a lower sugar one, to halve their sugar intake from six cubes of sugar to three;
- a sugary juice drink for a no-added sugar juice drink, to cut back from two cubes to half a cube;
- a higher-sugar breakfast cereal (e.g. a frosted or chocolate cereal) for a lower sugar cereal, to cut back from three cubes to half a cube per bowl.
While some foods and drinks remain high in sugar, many companies have reformulated products such as yoghurts, breakfast cereals and juice drinks, meaning these swaps are a good place for families to start. Making these swaps every day could remove around 2,500 sugar cubes per year from a child’s diet, but swapping chocolate, puddings, sweets, cakes and pastries for healthier options such as malt loaf, sugar-free jellies, lower-sugar custards and rice puddings would reduce their intake even more.
Change4Life is a national Public Health England campaign. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “Children are consuming too much sugar, but parents can take action now to prevent this building up over the years. To make this easier for busy families, Change4Life is offering a straightforward solution – by making simple swaps each day, children can have healthier versions of everyday foods and drinks, while significantly reducing their sugar intake.”
Families are encouraged to look for the Change4Life ‘Good Choice’ badge in shops, download the free Food Scanner app or search Change4Life to help them find lower sugar options. For more information, apps and advice, go to http://po.st/C4LK