13December2017

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Children’s Eating Habits in Ireland

Michal 4

A recent Mintel survey on the eating habits of children makes for interesting, and sometimes depressing reading. (Children’s Eating Habits - Ireland, February 2017)

In summary, Irish parents are encouraging their children to snack on more fresh fruit and vegetables when eating at home and are looking to reduce their intake of sugar to improve their children’s eating habits and better manage their weight. Safefood have recently upped their recommendation on fruit and vegetable consumption from five-a-day to five to seven-a-day, so the job for parents is getting harder.

The first point the report makes is that weight is still an issue for Irish children. Research from the Department of Health (September 2016) shows that that one in four children in the region is either overweight or obese and that the European Congress on Obesity (2015) notes that 27.5% of children in RoI under the age of five are overweight or obese, making children in the region the heaviest in Europe.

One of the findings was that parents are struggling with kids portion sizes. The Infant and Toddler Forum (2016) found that 79% of children aged 1-4 in the UK (including NI) are given more than the recommended portion size for their age while one in 10 is being served adult portion sizes by their parents. Parents need help during children’s meal times and developing simpler guidelines on appropriate portion sizes will help parents to improve their children’s eating habits.

It also found that soft drinks a significant source of sugar for children. According to the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey (published September 2016), sugary soft drinks account for 13% of the daily calorie intake for children aged 4-10 in the UK (including NI), rising to 15% among children aged 11-18. This is over twice and three times respectively the World Health Organisation’s recommended a limit of 5% for each age group. To tackle this issue, the UK/NI and RoI governments are planning to introduce a tax on sugary drinks.

Fruit snacks for children are a key driver of fighting obesity as parents look to healthier products to give their children. Bord Bia’s primary school Food Dudes program helps to address this issue by introducing fruit and vegetables to children in a positive, engaging way. Safefood gives helpful guidelines on healthy eating, including the use of the food pyramid.

There has also been significant growth in NPD levels within the children’s food and drink market. Launches of children’s food and drink products with no additives or preservatives are increasing and brands are also reducing the sugar content of their products.

Opportunity also exists for brands to fortify their products with healthy ingredients such as essential vitamins and minerals to support children’s growth and development.

Source: Bord Bia - Children’s Eating Habits in Ireland