Spending more time together as a family has been one of the positives from Covid-19 restrictions, with recent research by Behaviour and Attitudes finding that 86% of people value their family life more now since the pandemic began.

The START campaign from safefood, the HSE and Healthy Ireland, is encouraging parents to consider this increased family time as an opportunity to add a healthy habit.

The inclusion of such health habits could include getting children more involved with preparing for meal times or helping with making healthy snacks with their parents; or putting down screens for more indoor play; or getting out and active together as a family.

In identifying the positive starts that parents and families can take, the START campaign focuses on seven key lifestyle habits: namely, Minimise intake of foods high in fat, salt and sugar; Establish water and milk as routine drinks; Give appropriate child-sized portions to children; Include more fruit and vegetables across the week; Increase physical activity levels; Limit screen time.

Recent research for the START campaign also found that approximately half of parents reported finding it difficult to manage screen usage, treat consumption and physical activity during the pandemic.

Introducing the latest phase of the campaign, Dr Catherine Conlon, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood said: “The START campaign is all about introducing small changes in your family. This could include more family meals, watching portion sizes, swapping the couch for the park or indoor games, or regular sleep routines.

“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.”