Northern Ireland families spend £600 a year on treat foods

Northern Ireland families spend on average £600 on treat foods like crisps, chocolate and biscuits per year, which is almost three times what they spend on fruit.

By Helen McGurk
Monday, 30th May 2022, 10:58 am
Updated Monday, 30th May 2022, 2:36 pm
Meadow Neville (6) and Alexander Bellintani (10) show how much we spend on fruit and veg compared to 'treats'
Meadow Neville (6) and Alexander Bellintani (10) show how much we spend on fruit and veg compared to 'treats'

The data revealed by safefood as part of the START campaign showed that almost a fifth of a family’s average annual shopping budget is spent on treat foods such as crisps, chocolate, and sweets, compared to 7 per cent on fruit and 8 per cent on vegetables.

The Kantar Research report found that on average families spend £50 per month on treats foods, with £19 spent on fruit and £21 on vegetables.

The START campaign from safefood, the Public Health Agency and Department of Health is encouraging parents to take a step towards a healthier family lifestyle by reducing the amount of treats they give their children.

Parents told the campaign they are aware that the number of treats in their families’ diet has increased in recent years and are seeking support and advice on how best to reduce treat food consumption.

Dr Aileen McGloin, director of Nutrition with safefood said: “Parents know the impact that the past two years has had on their family’s life and the pressures that they face, especially with household food budgets tightening. Parents are trying to reduce treats, but they need some support.”

“All families have different circumstances, so it’s about choosing what works for you and your children and making a start towards healthier choices. This could be seeking advice on how to make a plan as a family to go easy on the treats; not buying as many when shopping; or help with how to talk to others in your family circle about offering smaller treats and not every day.”

“While costs are rising for everyday foods like milk or bread, products like chocolate and confectionary have not seen the same price increases. This can make it harder for families when they are trying to ensure their weekly shop contains the right balance of foods. So, while we know it’s difficult, we’re encouraging families to talk about small changes they can make and to visit www.makeastart.org for tips and advice.”

Latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that price increases for foods like chocolate and confectionary were 3.1 per cent in the past 12 months. This compares with increases ranging from 4.6 per cent for vegetables and 6.2 per cent for fruit, 7.7 per cent for meat, 6.3 per cent for bread/cereals and 9.5% for milk, cheese and eggs.

Child and Adolescent psychotherapist Dr Colman Noctor added: “Parents and guardians don’t want to be applauded for making the correct but difficult decision to reduce treats for their children.”

“Approaching this as a family together and making sure your children understand why you are doing this, will make you far more likely to succeed. This will also help form healthier eating habits to last a lifetime. If parents have a question on how they can get started, just head over to safefood’s Instagram”

The START campaign aims to support parents and guardians to talk to children about reducing treats as a family and minimise intake of foods high in fat, salt and sugar. The campaign website www.makeastart.org includes lots of practical advice and support on how to reduce treats, ideas for healthy snacks and advice from parenting experts.