23/02/2017 10:32 GMT | Updated 24/02/2018 05:12 GMT

How Low Income Families Can Tackle Childhood Obesity

Earlier this year, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) found one in five primary school children are obese, with poor families most affected.

The report stated 40% of children in the UK's most deprived areas were overweight or obese compared to 27% in most affluent areas. The health of children in Scotland was declared the worst in Europe.

So what are families meant to do about it?

In 2016 the Government published Childhood Obesity: a Plan for Action. It set out to take a lead on improving childhood health. But it has been called 'severely limited' by medical and health experts. For starters, it was only 10 pages long. Then, there was the problem that all the recommendations were voluntary. And lastly, there was no recognition that families in poverty have it hardest.

If you're a family on a budget, how can you get the nutrition you need at an affordable cost?

The NHS has a free interactive Eatwell Guide that gives guidelines on what makes a healthy, balanced diet:

There are five main pieces of nutritional advice:

  1. Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day
  2. Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates. Choose wholegrain where possible
  3. Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks and yoghurts). Choose lower-fat and lower-sugar options
  4. Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein. Aim for at least two portions of fish every week - one of which should be oily, such as salmon or mackerel
  5. Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts

This sounds simple enough, but it's good quality protein that families struggle to afford.

Helena Wright, a member of money saving community LatestDeals.co.uk, said, "I'm a mum of four and getting everyone to eat a balanced meal is hard. Veg and carbs are easy enough, but fresh fish and meat is expensive.

"We often struggle to get beef or chicken within our budget. Then we end up buying frozen meats, which are usually processed with added sugar and salt."

What is the most cost effective source of protein?

Using data from the United States Department of Agriculture Food Composition Database and cross-analysing it price data from MoneySupermarket, LatestDeals found the following sources of protein to be the most cost effective:

  1. Kidney Beans - £0.33p p/100g protein
  2. Pinto Beans - £0.62p p/100g protein
  3. Whole Chicken - £0.70p p/100g protein
  4. Chickpeas - £0.74p p/100g protein
  5. Tuna (tinned) - £1.11p p/100g protein

For families on a budget, a tin of red kidney beans (in water) is the cheapest way to get a healthy dose of protein. Beef (rump steak) was found to be one of the most expensive forms, at £4.46 p/100g protein.