BARELY a week goes by without children’s diets being mentioned in the media.

Last month health bosses in the UK called for targets to be set to cut the calories in popular foods amid concerns children are consuming too much.

However, healthy eating is about much more than tallying the numbers, and while NHS figures suggest obesity rates among UK children are continuing to rise, the issue can be an extremely confusing one for parents.

In Bolton help is at hand for those needing support getting their children on track with their health.

The Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust Family Healthy Lifestyle Team at The Base in Bolton run a programme for children who are over their health BMI - the Body Mass Index used to determine a person’s weight in regard to their height.

Healthy lifestyle coach Jill Harrison is used to doling out the advice for families most in need but her tips can help anyone confused about keeping on top of the child’s health.

She said: “It is very difficult to pin point exactly what calories your children need. It can be really hard for parents especially if you have children of different ages or genders – it can be difficult to judge what they need.

“If you stick to healthy eating and activity guidelines you cannot really go wrong.

“In terms of what we eating and food, it’s not just what we eat but how we eat it. We want it to be none pressured and make healthy eating pleasurable.

“Starting with simple steps you can create a healthy lifestyle.”

Jill takes families through a process called mindful eating where you pay more attention to the foods you eat, how you eat them (such as eating it more slowly) and the environment in which you eat them (sitting down for a meal as a family).

This can include exploring the textures, smells and colours of food children may normally avoid – such as vegetables like broccoli.

However, there are more ‘simple’ things families can do everyday to make more healthy choices, she explains.

These include:

-Drinking more water and limiting fizzy, sugary drinks to one meal at the weekend

-Aim towards eating five fruit and vegetables a day

-Move meals from processed to more whole foods

-Do not deny children everything – because they will get it another way – and, instead, offer it as a treat

Of course it’s not all about food. Being active is the best way of keeping healthy and Jill offers a few easy steps to follow if you want to pick up on the keep fit.

They are:

-Try and get to the Government guidelines of children having 60 minutes of activity a day – make it part of your lifestyle and fun (such as going for a walk or playing)

-Limit time in front of a screen – anything from televisions to iPads and computers – to two hours a day

-Do activities as a family so children can follow their parents’ lead

-Make it interactive with smartphone apps which can turn a task into a challenge

Jill adds: “Children love a bit of a challenge so you can make it fun for them.

“If you make the right environment children will naturally be active, sometimes it’s just as simple as making the situation to allow them to play.”

Recent figures have shown that more than 600 children and young people under 25 were treated for type two diabetes in 2015/16 – nearly 80 per cent of whom were obese – nationally.

In May, The Bolton News reported that the number of four-year-olds who are obese in the town had risen sharply and one in five 11-year-olds are grossly fat, alarming new figures show.

Public Health England chief nutritionist Dr Alison Tedstone said: “We have a serious problem - one in three leave primary school either obese or overweight. If we want to tackle this we have to look at calories.

“There are a number of ways it can be done - we can reduce the size of the products or change the ingredients.”

Official guidelines suggest school-age children need 1,600-2,500 calories a day. There are more specific guidelines for certain age ranges

However, the focus on the calories is not the way to approach helping you child keep a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Jill explains: “We don’t want children growing up thinking about calories, we want them to enjoy the food. You don’t have to be restrictive and parents need to be role models.

“You can do things together, eat meals together and explore food, and it will become part of a normal and healthy lifestyle.” Parents seeking more advice are are asked to contact Family Healthy Lifestyle Team on 01204 337601 of visit