With one in three children overweight, it’s hard to deny the UK has an obesity problem.
And as every mom knows, it’s hard to keep kids on the straight and narrow when it comes to healthy options.
Especially when supermarket shelves are filled with bags of cheap family chocolates and fast food ads pop up between kids’ shows on YouTube.
So is the new NHS Food Scanner app the solution?
By using your smartphone to scan the barcode, it instantly tells you the amount of salt, sugar, saturated fat and calories in whatever you eat.
And smartly, after the app – which launched this month – tells you how bad a choccie cookie is, it gives you a healthier alternative.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
As a person who loves absolute control and wants superpowers, I think I’m doing whatever it takes to let my husband, Scott, 46, a mortgage advisor, and two sons, Max, 12, and Rufus, eight years old, a healthy diet.
I carefully plan my meals. I look at all the labels on the products and I mostly cook from scratch. Our favorites are curries, chili and soups and I even try to make my own pasta sauce.
If I’m being really honest, we’re part of the pudding and love the chocolates in front of the phone.
At the end of the week, of course, all the parents let things pass. I’m no stranger to a microwaved meal or a jar of pre-prepared bolognese sauce.
Usually I say that if kids refuse fruit, they won’t get the sugary treat. But when I’m tired or stressed, I’ll give in and junk food will creep in.
I would be tired from working all day and if I ate dinner late, the kids would whine for a bag of crisps or a cookie. I gave in because I knew they were hungry.
Similarly, when my grandmother visits every week, she cooks enough sweets to feed a small army, I don’t want to be a cheerful pervert.
And when Rufus refused a weekday toast breakfast, I fed him sugary cereal – otherwise, he simply wouldn’t eat it.
But overall, when I see other parents pushing through shopping sprees filled with fried chicken and 24 packs of frozen fish, with overweight kids accompanying me, I feel quietly smug. I am a health-conscious mom.
‘HONEY-ROASTED NUTS HAS THE BIGGEST Shock’
Or so I thought until I tried the singing and dancing app.
Not only does it tell you how much bad stuff you’re consuming, it also displays it as cute pictures of sugar cubes or packets of salt, so you can REALLY get an idea of how awful you are.
According to Government guidelines, the daily recommended sugar limit for a family of four is 27 cubes, about 85 g of saturated fat and 46 packs of salt. And I’m pretty sure we didn’t eat anywhere nearby.
But after considering everything our family ate on an average Saturday, I was shocked.
We ate four times the limit of sugar and twice the recommended amount of saturated fat.
And it’s not like we’re overdoing it.
I’m talking about Kellogg’s Krave cereal for the kids for breakfast, waffles for me and Scott, and fruit for all of us.
Then it was pizza for lunch – but a family one between the four of us – and a salad, and fruit.
For dinner, we ate spag bol, with a jar of store-bought sauce, topped with rich cheese.
After all, it’s the weekend.
Throughout the day, to stave off my growing kids’ hunger, I feed them a Penguin cookie, fruit, Walkers crisps, and a yogurt each.
After the kids dinner, I calculated the total for the day and I was surprised to discover our daily sugar intake is up to 112 sugar cubes.
Saturated fat – the kind that has been linked to heart attacks – reaches 165g, almost double the maximum we should eat.
Thankfully, our salt intake is 43.4 packs, which sounds really bad but is only a fraction of the recommended amount.
But seeing these numbers on the app completely convinced me that we are eating healthy.
The biggest shocks were the honey roasted nuts that Scott ate in the evening and the jars of yogurt I gave the kids that morning.
Nuts have 7.9 sugar cubes and just over three packs of salt in one bag while yogurt contains almost ten sugar cubes and one salt pack.
‘BEST BIT? IT’S CHEAP!’
So, what does all this mean?
“Eating this amount of sugar and saturated fat on a daily basis can lead to a host of health problems – and even increase the risk of certain types of cancer, as both,” says nutritionist Amanda Ursell. Habits can increase the risk of obesity.
Carrying extra body weight increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer and is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.
“With the consumption of 112 sugar cubes, there is a real and primary concern for children’s teeth. Sugar feeds bacteria in our mouths, which in turn create plaque and rotting.
“This explains the direct link between a lot of sugary foods and drinks and the need for dentists to extract cavities.”
I’m 47 years old and hearing what Amanda has to say, I want to do better. I don’t think there’s any way I’d get suggested swaps from the app before my kids, but it’s not just boring stuff like “exchange a chocolate bar for a Apple”.
When I handed out an Alpen chocolate bar instead of the regular Galaxy, the kids applauded.
With less than two and a half sugar cubes in each bar, it’s great to know it won’t damage their teeth.
Swapping our regular Muller Fruit Corner yogurt for the light version saves just under three sugar cubes per pot.
Switching Walkers crisps to Snack A Jacks means cutting out a packet of salt for each bag.
And replacing the Dolmio bolognese sauce with a lighter option saved four sugar cubes.
For dessert, no one noticed that I replaced our regular Carte D’Or ice cream with the brand’s lighter version, with seven fewer sugar cubes.
The only grumble I get from either kid is when I put jam on toast instead of Nutella at dinner.
It saves a block of sugar but the kids love the chocolate more. However, they still eat it.
All in all, the in-app swap has cut our salt intake by almost 15 packs, sugar to just under 65 blocks and saturated fat to 98g.
And the best bit? I think it would be expensive to eat healthier because you always hear that fresh is more expensive than frozen or canned. But my original Saturday shop cost £26.95, while the swap fee was £21.80, much cheaper.
My one complaint, however, is that the app doesn’t recognize every item I’ve scanned.
With a few simple swaps, however, I’ve almost halved my sugar, nearly 60% less saturated fat, and eliminated 14 packs of salt in 24 hours.
I will now incorporate these swaps in my weekly meal plan.
It’s healthier – and cheaper.
https://www.thesun.ie/fabulous/8245865/six-food-swaps-cut-sugar/ Six food swaps you can make to cut your sugar intake for weight loss… AND they save you money