The NHS Food Scanner app, which previously only showed the nutritional content of products, has been updated and allows users to swap snacks for ones with less sugar, salt and saturated fat.
How does the app work?
Tested with a family in London, the app recommended a thin and crispy pizza instead of a stuffed crust, sugar-free lemonade to replace the regular version, and a lighter pasta sauce replacement.
Instead of a chocolate cake bar, a fruit bar emerged as an alternative, and a low-sugar yoghurt was recommended instead of one with chocolate balls included.
The five replacement products were found to reduce the sugar intake of Gloria Denovagiene, seven years old, and her brother Arlo, four years old, by the equivalent of 40 sugar cubes per week. Their salt intake was reduced by the equivalent of 15 sachets and saturated fat in their diet by 80 grams.
Tackling childhood obesity
The NHS hopes the app, which is part of the NHS's new Better Health campaign and promoted by former Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle, will help tackle a record rise in childhood obesity since the pandemic began.
Figures for 2019-2020 show that 25% of ten and 11-year-olds in England are obese, up from just over 18% a decade earlier. And a survey of 2030 parents, conducted by the website Netmums last month, found that 58% gave their children more sugary or fatty snacks than before the pandemic.
Launching the app, public health minister Maggie Throup said:
We know that families have felt a lot of pressure during the pandemic, which has drastically changed habits and routines. The new year is a good time to make resolutions, not just for ourselves but for our families.