Almost half of parents in the East of England think that their child is overweight, a new children’s health study has revealed. 

Although the region’s figure (44 per cent) is well above those of Northern Ireland (17 per cent) and the South East (18 per cent), it is significant below those of the East Midlands (65 per cent) and Scotland, where more than two-thirds of parents (69 per cent) felt that their child was overweight.

Despite many parents admitting that their child’s weight may have exceeded healthy limits, 43 per cent said they weren’t worried about their “puppy fat” and assume that they will drop the excess pounds as they grow older.

The poll, commissioned by the UK discount brand www.vouchercloud.com, asked 2,324 British parents aged 25 and over, with at least one child between the ages of five and 12, about their child’s health, and most specifically their weight.

When it comes to daily eating habits, nearly nine in ten mums and dads claimed that they encouraged their children to eat healthy foods during mealtimes.

Away from the dinner table, around two-thirds (63 per cent) of children were given so called “naughty snacks,” whilst only 17 per cent of parents made sure their children ate “healthy snacks.” The remaining respondents (20 per cent) said it was 50/50.

The cost of healthier snacks may be one contributing factor to children’s diets, with 68 per cent of parents stating that junk food like crisps and cakes were cheaper than healthy alternatives.

Of those parents who considered their children to be overweight, the most common reasons given were related to the amount effort involved in trying to enforce healthier lifestyles. Thirty-seven per cent of parents stated that it was too hard to persuade children to eat anything healthy, and a further 34 per cents said their children would rather sit in front of the TV than be active.

Safety concerns were also found to be a factor, with a fifth of respondents (21 per cent) claiming that they are wary of letting their children play outdoors and prefer for them to stay inside where they can keep an eye on them.

Matthew Wood, managing director of vouchercloud.com, said: “The results of this study go to show that whilst many parents consider their children overweight, they don’t seem particularly concerned about the potential longer term health risks, or interested in doing anything to encourage a more active lifestyle.

“Whilst many parents give in to their child demanding unhealthy snacks and treats, it’s a bad precedent to set that allows them to think they can always get their own way. If they’re as hungry as they make themselves out to be, surely they will eat something healthy?

“No parent wants their child to grow up with medical issues that have developed as a result of a being overweight at a young age. In order for them to reach their potential and do great things with their lives, they should be educated in how to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle.”

Do you consider your child to be overweight? Regional responses to the poll:

  • Scotland – 69%
  • East Midlands – 65%
  • North East – 53%
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – 52%
  • East of England – 44%
  • West Midlands – 41%
  • Wales – 34%
  • North West – 30%
  • South West – 27%
  • London – 20%
  • South East – 18%
  • Northern Ireland – 17%

Source: www.harlowstar.co.uk