The ‘F’ Word.

If I ever meet whoever is responsible for the scheduling of the current Safefood advert, I will not be responsible for my actions. I hadn’t seen it before but it came on while I was watching television with the children. It is clearly trying to send adults a message not to give out biscuits willy-nilly but all it did was make my daughter say, ‘look Mum,when she got the biscuits she got fat, ugh, I would hate to be fat!’ So the message that particular advert sends my child is that fat is wrong! Nothing about healthy eating, nothing about being fit and strong – just the message that if you eat biscuits you will be fat and that is bad.


I am fully aware that my child will go through phases of worrying about her shape. It will not matter what her shape is, she will worry about it. Do we ban biscuits from the house? Are cake and chocolate to become ‘unmentionables’? Because as we all know, if you are forbidden something you just accept it and move on, right? You don’t make it your sacred mission to eat as many biscuits and cakes as you can, whenever and wherever you get the chance!

Childhood obesity is a problem in Ireland and so there is a massive push by safefood at the moment to encourage healthy eating. I am absolutely all for that. I have written about it previously myself – it is one of our parental duties to encourage healthy eating and explain why everyone needs to eat well. But not because you will get fat, but because if you only snack on sugary food, you will not feel well. Because if you only snack on sugary food, you will not have enough energy to play outside. Because if you only snack on sugary food, you may harm your body, and your teeth. Because sugary snacks don’t give you enough energy to play football, to go swimming, to climb trees, or to scoot to the playground. Sugary food will not help your brain to grow and develop, it will not help you do the ‘maths frenzy’ that you love so much.

Rather than scare-mongering children into thinking that eating sweet food will make them (horror of horrors) fat, I for one am teaching them the positives of healthy food. Fruit and vegetables are good for your body and mind, and eating these will help you to grow strong in both. Cheese and milk are good for our bones and teeth, they will give you a nice bright smile. I focus on encouraging the children to eat the meals I prepare for them rather than rely on snacks to keep them going. However I absolutely refuse to demonise sugar. Biscuits and chocolate every now and again are good too – no they will not help us to grow strong and healthy but they are tasty and enjoyable.They are sweet. They are, in fact, a treat!

Doing lots of this..

Doing lots of this..




...and this..

…and this….

Makes this O.K.

…makes this O.K.

I have never felt the need to tell any of my children that a food type makes them fat and I never intend to either. Stick to correct portions, keep sweets as a treat, let your children have plenty of fresh air and play. Allow them to grow up healthily but not living in fear of the dreaded sugar! If you are struggling with limiting your child’s sugary treat intake, then there are some great tips here from safefood. But please don’t let them see that ad!

I welcome all feedback, please feel free to add your thoughts and comments below.

Thanks for reading



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Aileen McGloin
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 13:52:30

    Hi Aisling,

    I read with interest your blog and would like to thank you for pointing your readers to our practical advice despite your reservations about our ad. I can clearly see that you’re aware of the healthy eating and many of the tips on how to instil good habits in children for the long term and seem to be doing really good work in that area. I would like to bring you through a little of the rational for our choice of direction for our campaign so you’re aware of how we got to this particular advertisement.

    You seem to be aware of the stats that at present one in four children are overweight, even as young as 3 years old, and that this leaves them at risk of long term diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease. And that it’s these issues around overweight and what its likely to do to our children why safefood, along with Healthy Ireland, has made addressing obesity a public health priority.

    Firstly I just want to clarify that the campaign is aimed at parents of children who are likely to be at risk. In extensive research carried out with parents pre-development they told us they wanted to know more about the consequences of the habits they have developed with their children and that they needed help addressing the issues. They also told us that they do not see themselves or their children as overweight, that the extra weight that we are all carrying has become the social norm and so we/they no longer see it. Parents told us that a campaign to tackle this problem needs to make them sit up and take notice, and help them understand how the habits they are developing now with their children are not innocuous but in the long-term are doing them damage.

    You highlight a healthy balance between physical activity and food intake, including treats and you are right. That is the ideal. However, we know from National Nutrition Surveys that on average 20% of the calories in children’s diets come from treat foods. These provide calories without nourishment and are therefore a logical place to start looking at reducing energy intake in children.

    That’s the reason that in this specific ad we’re tackling treat foods. In the long term it is firstly extra weight that the children will gain by following the poor habits like giving them treats several times a day.

    We really do appreciate you drawing attention to what it a really necessary topic and hope our response goes some way to explaining the necessary direction of the campaign. This blog post on why and how we made the ads might also give some insight

    Kind regards

    Aileen McGloin


    • BabySteps
      Oct 22, 2014 @ 14:24:24

      Hi Aileen, how are you? Thanks for your comment and explaining the thinking behind the ad. I don’t have a problem with adults seeing the ad (even though I don’t agree with the shock value of it)it is the fact that it was scheduled during daytime when children can see it, along with my daughters reaction that spurred me to write the post. I don’t use the words fat and skinny around my children I tell them that people come in all different shapes and sizes so to hear my daughter say ‘ugh I would hate to be fat’ really bothered me.Yes we have a problem in Ireland and I generally agree with safefood but in this advert we will have to agree to differ!


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