EXCHANGE sugary foods and drinks for healthy alternatives – that’s the message for Hampshire residents from county and national health officials.

They are urging families and individuals to sign up to the Government’s Change4Life’s Smart Swaps campaign, which is aimed at promoting healthier eating habits.

Members of the public visiting any county council- owned countryside parks, such as Lepe on the Hampshire coast, or libraries, will be able to opt for non-sugary foods and beverages.

Hampshire’s cabinet spokesperson for adult social care and public health, Councillor Liz Fairhurst, urged everyone to join Smart Swaps.

“To raise awareness of Smart Swaps we are working with Hampshire County Council catering services to ensure that simple food and drink swaps are available for staff and customers who visit our countryside parks, libraries and workplace cafes across Hampshire.

“January always makes us want to eat healthily and this campaign makes it easier to start the year off with some healthier changes to your diet.”

Libraries are offering free copies of a guide containing healthy meal ideas, called Taster Recipe.

Health experts suggest swapping sugary drinks for diet or sugar-free ones or drinking water or skimmed milk. They also advise people to ditch full fat cheeses for reduced fat ones and eating low fat butters and spreads instead of those with high fat contents. Eat porridge or wholewheat cereal biscuits instead of cereals packed with sugar, say experts.

People who sign up to the Smart Swaps campaign in January will be eligible for money-off vouchers.

Public Health England has £840,000 worth of vouchers to give away to people joining the campaign.

Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and well-being at Public Health England, said: “Swapping like-for-like food in our diet could help cut out surprising levels of saturated fat, sugar and ultimately calories without having to give up the kinds of foods that we like. We all eat too much saturated fat and sugar, which can increase our calorie intake. Together this increases our risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers.”

He added: “We’re committed to doing as much as possible to support families to make these swaps, which is why I am really pleased to announce that hundreds of pounds worth of offers will be available to those who sign up to Smart Swaps and in store across hundreds of shops in England.”

Co-op, Aldi, Asda and Lidl are amongst stores taking part in the initiative.