Adverts for unhealthy junk food are to be banned from all forms of media aimed at children as part of a groundbreaking government movement to combat the childhood obesity crisis. This ban will prohibit food and drink which is high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) from being targeted to under-16s.

The new advertising rules are expected to have a major effect on the amount of unhealthy junk food consumed by children. This decision follows market research group, Childwise’s findings that under-16s now spend around six hours a day online and watching television, more than ever before.


Which Ads Are Banned?

The change in legislature means that unhealthy junk food will no longer be advertised in any print, film or online media where at least 25% of the audience is younger than 16 years old. This includes ads which either directly or indirectly promote HFSS foods.

Video sharing platforms such as YouTube and computer games which are likely to appeal to children are also included in the advertising ban. Companies will no longer be permitted to use licensed mascots such as cartoon characters or celebrities to market HFSS foods.


HFSS Foods

HFSS stands for “high in fat, salt or sugar” and can be used to describe an extremely wide range of foods.

Although experts agree that HFSS products can be enjoyed by children in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, research shows that the average child’s diet contains too much unhealthy junk food and not enough fruit or vegetables.

Some of the most common examples of HFSS foods that feature too prominently in many young people’s diets are; sugary breakfast cereals, chicken nuggets, fizzy drinks and pre-packaged lunches.


How to Get Kids Eating Healthy

Parents of any age group- from toddlers to teenagers- know that getting kids to eat healthy food can be challenging, and getting them to actually enjoy it might seem impossible. However, there are steps you can take to make healthy mealtimes go a little easier and improve the nutritional intake of the whole family.

Three of the simplest strategies to start with are:

  • Eat set meals together as a family every day
  • Keep the fridge and cupboards stocked with a variety of healthy snack foods, rather than processed options.
  • Set a good example for your kids by eating as healthily as possible yourself

If you’re not too sure which foods count as HFSS, the NHS Change4Life website has plenty of helpful advice to follow. One suggestion the site gives is to keep portion sizes under control by dishing out small servings at dinner time and encouraging children to ask for more if they’re still hungry when finished.

When it comes to snacks between meals, the Sugar Smart app can help you to calculate how much sugar is in each food item and even suggests tasty, healthier alternatives to snacks that are too sugary.

Swapping HFSS foods for more nutritional options can be surprisingly affordable and delicious. There are plenty of meal plans you and your family can follow to transform your eating habits and the overall health of your household.

The BBC Good Food website has a whole host of mouth-watering, colourful recipes that kids are sure to love, including rainbow fruit skewers and fruity frozen yoghurts. Try getting your kids into the kitchen so they can learn more about smart eating by turning these meals into a fun activity that you could make together.

If you’d like more information or you are concerned about your child’s weight and eating habits, make sure you book an appointment with your GP or Practice Nurse for advice and support.