Spending more time together as a family has been one of the positives to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have said. However, they have struggled to manage their children's screen usage and consumption of treats.
According to research highlighted by the START campaign, 86% of people say they value their family life more now than they did before the pandemic.
START is an ongoing campaign that began in 2017, which aims to help families to get started on the path to a healthier future. It is run by Safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland.
As part of its latest phase, it is appealing to parents to use their increased family time to begin a new healthy habit with their children.
Recent research carried out for the campaign found that around half of parents have found it difficult to manage their children's screen usage, treat consumption and physical activity levels during the pandemic.
According to Safefood's director of human health and nutrition, Dr Catherine Conlon, the START campaign is all about introducing small changes within your family, which could have a big impact in the long-term. These could include eating more family meals together, watching portion sizes, maintaining regular sleep routines and being more physically active.
"We know it's been really hard for families with all the uncertainties that the pandemic has brought for parents and for their children. The one good thing that has come out of it is families have more time to spend together. Parents tell us that they appreciate this and want it to continue.
"We want to tap into that positivity and support parents in making the most of more time together by making small changes to build healthier habits for all the family. Big wins can start with small changes and the health benefits will add up over time," she said.
Sarah O'Brien is the HSE's national lead for the Healthy Eating and Active Living Programme. She explained that since March, the campaign has been regularly checking in with people to see how COVID-19 is impacting on their lives.
"The most recent results tell us that while re-opening of schools and childcare services has improved their lives, around half continue to report it challenging to manage children's diet, physical activity and screen time.
"Taking small steps to build changes into how we spend time either, by cooking family meals together, or putting on the rain coats and getting out to play with the children regardless of the weather, can pave the way for spending less time on the couch in front of a TV or tablet screen," she insisted.
The START campaign has a number of resources available to help families to makes small changes, which could have a big impact on their overall health. For more on these, click here.
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