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Almost half of parents reward children with treats, report shows

Almost half of parents reward their children with chocolate, crisps or ice cream for good behaviour.

A new report into healthy food choices among parents shows only 6% admit to rarely treating them to these types of food.

It also highlights that nearly half give their child a treat because they ask while nearly a third do it to make them feel better.

Parents involved in the research led by University College Dublin found that treats were unavoidable - from being a consistent part of celebrations and occasions, to post-activity snacking, to being ever-present while supermarket shopping.

“Parents have so much power to influence their children’s health and snacking habits," said Peadar Maxwell, Psychologist with the HSE.

"Practical steps include having less treats available in your home and offering healthier snacks makes it so much easier to bridge that gap between wanting to be a hero and feeling we have to give in.

Shifting rewards for good behaviour from food treats to praise, a hug or a game, and giving attention to our children when they chose healthy snacks, all help too.

Mr Maxwell also told parents not to despair or beat themselves up if they do give in.

"It’s really important to stay positive and if treats are a long-term habit, it may require patience for healthy snacking to become the norm."

Dr Marian O’Reilly, Chief Specialist in Nutrition, safefood said that the short-term impact of treats becoming an everyday food for children is that they don't get all the nutrients they need for growth and development such as iron and calcium.

"These foods are also linked in the short-term with poor dental health and in the longer term with many chronic conditions," said Dr O'Reilly.

"We struggle to avoid these treat foods every day because they are available everywhere, highly palatable, cheap and frequently on special offer."