Parents in the East of England are being encouraged to find healthier treats for their children as part of a new Government sugar crackdown.

Official data shows childhood obesity in this region has reached alarming rates, with 21% of four-to-five-year-olds overweight or obese, increasing to 31.5% in 10-to-11-year-olds.

Half of children’s sugar intake, around seven cubes a day, comes from unhealthy snacks and sweet drinks, leading to weight problems and dental decay.

Each year a typical child in the East of England is consuming almost 400 biscuits; more than 120 cakes, buns and pastries; around 100 portions of sweets; nearly 70 of both chocolate bars and ice creams; washed down with more than 150 juice drink pouches and cans of fizzy drink.

Public Health England is today launching a new Change4Life campaign promoting healthier snacks.

Parents in the region are being urged to: “look for 100 calorie snacks, two a day max”, and they will be given advice, special offers and money-off vouchers to help them find more wholesome alternatives for their littles ones.

Dr Barbara Paterson, deputy director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England in the east, said: “Changing our children’s snacking habits can be a real challenge and we want to make it easier for families to find healthier options.

“By asking parents to ‘look for 100 calories snacks, two a day max’, we’re helping them to give heathier snacks, while giving them less frequently.”

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “The true extent of children’s snacking habits is greater than the odd biscuit or chocolate bar. Children are having unhealthy snacks throughout the day and parents have told us they’re concerned. To make it easier for busy families, we’ve developed a simple rule of thumb to help them move towards healthier snacking – look for 100 calories snacks, two a day max.”

The tip applies to all snacks apart from fruit and vegetables, as children are still encouraged to eat five a day.

Public Health England is also working with the food industry nationally to cut 20% of sugar from the products children consume most by 2020.

The eight-week Change4Life scheme will include a new TV and radio advert.