Nutrition Editor of Healthy Food Guide, Amanda Ursell, visited Lower Kersal Community Primary School this afternoon to do some fun food sessions with seven and eight year olds as part of Public Health England's Change4Life campaign and the launch of its new Be Food Smart app.
The app allows children and parents to scan the barcode of food and drinks to reveal how much saturated fat, sugar and salt is in them, shown by the number of saturated fat 'blobs', sugar cubes and salt sachets in each product.
The children scanned various items, including cereals, chocolate bars and biscuits, before making their own posters to promote the app, and creating a fresh fruit salad with Amanda's guidance on its nutritional value, pointing out that sugar in fruit doesn't count as it's natural.
After the sessions, Amanda was focused on why nutritional education is so vital. As food companies in search of their own healthy profits exploit consumers, she said: "In some ways it's a shame that the children have to know all this stuff at such a young age but on the other hand they need to have it because they live in a very different world to the one we grew up in.
"You are marketed to the moment you step out of your house, and the moment you get back in again, on tv, on computer games and apps" she added "I think this is a good idea so they can make smarter choices. We have to equip them with the knowledge they need to survive nutritionally."
Official Public Health England figures show that childhood obesity is rising. In the North West, 23.2% of four to five-year-olds are overweight or obese, increasing to 35.2% for 10 to 11 year-olds.
In Salford, 21.4% of Year 6 pupils are classed as obese, according to latest Public Health England figures (2013-14), which is above the English average. Parents don't fare much better, with 27% of Salford adults classed as obese, 4% above the English average.
"The Be Food Smart app is brilliant because it's so practical" said Amanda "I've got children who are nine and seven, so I have used it with them, and have been able to see just how incredibly helpful it is for children to visualise things.
"Parent concerns about salt and saturated fats and sugar is very difficult for them to understand" she added "But if you can show them something that they can actually have in their hand; where they literally scan the barcode and all these cubes of sugar come tumbling down, you can show them that in a can of sugary drink there can be eight or nine cubes of sugar. It's a very visual stark illustration of what, as a parent, you are trying to communicate..."
The pupils at Lower Kersal Primary certainly got into the app and hinted that they will also be passing on what they know to their elders...
"I eat better than my brother and my dad – at night he probably eats about three packets of crisps and then two chocolate bars" Charlie, who's nearly eight, told the Salford Star.
His classmate, Ruby, who's almost nine, thinks she too eats healthier than her brother... "He eats crisps" she said "This app will help me but I do eat better than my brother."
Isabelle, age seven, agreed that she would be getting her parents to download the app but reckoned that she too eats quite healthy foods. Nutritionist, Amanda, was thrilled with the children's attitude... "They've been incredibly well behaved, delightful to be with and also very engaged" she enthused
"I think what was interesting in the cookery session was the little boy who put his nose right in the bowl of fruit and said 'Miss, have you smelt this?'; which was way beyond what I expected" she added "And that's a big part of eating. It's a lovely part of the process, handling food and tasting it and being involved in it.
"In the classroom we've used the app, scanned sugary food, and talked about the fact that you don't have to cut it out completely" she concluded "It's just about balance. No-one's saying 'Don't have any sugar', we're just saying 'Be aware, Be Food Smart'..."
For further details on the Be Food Smart app and to download it see the Change4Life website – click here