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Donnelly's new food guidelines for kids really take the biscuit


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Nutty rules: Stephen Donnelly

Nutty rules: Stephen Donnelly

Nutty rules: Stephen Donnelly

In 1879, Marie-Antoinette famously sniffed: "Let them eat cake."

Quarter of a millennium on, this week Stephen Donnelly decreed: "Let them eat half a Marietta."

The Minister for Health jointly unveiled new healthy eating guidelines for preschoolers on Thursday.

And the advice aimed at helping parents to establish good eating habits in toddlers was all a bit Oliver Twist.

Under the revamped food pyramid, mams and dads were urged to offer only a 'tiny' amount of fatty treats to tots weekly.

Forget beloved childhood sweets like a Kinder Surprise or even a funsize bag of Jelly Tots though.

The Milky Bars were certainly not on the dad of three as a 24-page booklet outlined how young children should instead be spoiled with half a plain biscuit, three single crisps or one square of chocolate per week.

"Sweets, chocolate, biscuits, cakes, fizzy drinks or crisps should not be a part of your child's daily diet," dictated the document. "While ideally these foods should be avoided, realistically, including these foods in TINY amounts and only once a week or less ensures the child's diet remains healthy overall."

Are these experts taking the biscuit?

With one in six schoolkids here now classed as overweight or obese, no one is advocating for a staple diet of cake and Coke.

Rigorous

But such rigorous rules around Rich Tea will only put hard-working parents off heeding some of the more sensible tips on vitamin supplements and portion sizes.

As for grandparents? Here, have another Hobnob, dear.

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Coincidentally, over on The Great British Bake Off on Tuesday night, it was also Biscuit Week.

Judge Pru Leith was concerned about the size of Northern Irish contestant Mark Lutton's nuts in the show's naughtiest double entendre to date.

But even his Macadamia nut and Mango Florentines weren't half as nutty as expecting a four-year-old to eat half a biscuit - and put the other half back in the press until next week. Changing the narrative around treats, and what constitutes one as touched upon by the guidelines, seems like a practical first step in tackling our obesity epidemic.

Next to a trip to the park or a new sticker book, three cheese and onion crisps or a fraction of a Lincoln on Sundays feels more like a punishment than a reward - if you're four or 40.

Emptying the biscuit press altogether is a daft ask for parents who are otherwise fairly careful with their childrens' diets.

In a country where we munch through €230 million worth of biccies a year, it's even more Ginger Nuts.

When it comes to the crunch, most parents don't need a six-tiered #kidspyramid to raise healthy, balanced kids.

If their toddler snaffles a (whole) chocolate digestive every now and then, that's just the way cookie crumbles.