Britain’s health service on Monday launched a NHS Food Scanner App that offers healthier alternatives as part of the government’s multimedia anti-obesity Better Health Campaign.
This feature available on the free to download app, allows families to scan product barcodes that suggest healthier alternatives to help them make an easy swap during their next shopping trip.
The application uses a “Good Choice” badge to help signpost people to healthier food and drinks in line with the government’s dietary recommendations for added sugar, saturated fat and salt.
“We know that parents find it really hard to find healthier snacks for their kids, especially if they’re fussy eaters,” said Dr Linia Patel, an Indian-origin dietician, who tested the new National Health Service (NHS) app.
“The NHS Food Scanner App is a fun way to get the kids involved in choosing healthier foods that they’ll love – so get going and scan, swipe, swap,” she said.
The aim of the free-to-download smartphone app is for families to be given support to improve the diets of their children, as new statistics reveal the number of parents giving unhealthy snacks to their children has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It follows a record rise in obesity among children since the start of the pandemic, with NHS analysis showing that one in four young schoolchildren in England are now overweight or obese.
“We know that families have felt a lot of pressure throughout the pandemic, which has drastically changed habits and routines,” said UK Public Health Minister Maggie Throup.
“The new year is a good time for making resolutions, not just for ourselves, but for our families. Finding ways to improve their health is one of the best resolutions any of us could make. By downloading the free NHS Food Scanner App, families can swap out foods from the weekly shop for healthier alternatives and avoid items high in salt, sugar and saturated fat,” she said.
Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), said: “We are all aware of the increased pressures families have been under throughout the pandemic with children being stuck at home more.”
“With advertising promoting unhealthy foods to kids, 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.
“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,” Tedstone said.
The app is part of the DHSC’s wider anti-obesity strategy for the Better Health Campaign, which involves regulating the promotion of less healthy foods to children backed by around GBP 100 million in funding.
A survey by UK-based parenting hub Netmums showed that nearly 58 per cent parents give their children more sugary or fatty snacks than before the pandemic and nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of parents said they often worry about how healthy their children’s snacks really are.
Nearly 90 per cent of parents said they would benefit from an app which would help them make healthier choices for their children.
“That two-thirds of parents find they’re giving kids more treats as snacks than pre-pandemic doesn’t surprise me in the slightest – we all comfort ate our way through the pandemic and I know my kids ate far more treats than usual,” said Annie O’Leary, Netmums editorial director.