MORE than 200 families in Rock Ferry have signed up to a council-run scheme guiding them towards healthy eating.

Takeaway shops in the town have agreed to carry menus offering healthier options and were given grants to buy low-fat frying oils, improved equipment and smaller containers for “portion control.”

The moves are explained in a report to the next week’s meeting of Wirral children’s trust board, and says the “Eat Well Wirral” and “Takeaway for a Change” projects are having an impact on people’s diets.

The aim is to allow consumers to still enjoy their favourite food, but with a healthy twist.

For instance, children who had never eaten vegetables are now enjoying them on pizza and families who routinely bought deep-fried foods for their kids are experimenting with more healthy options.

One-to-one surveys with families at the local school and children’s centre were used to help develop the scheme.

Education and financial incentives to businesses were introduced to try to bring about a change in practices.

In addition, a grant was provided for printing new menus in which healthier options were strongly promoted.

Staff-training also was offered to attract businesses to join the scheme.

Families were offered a £15 voucher to spend in participating takeaways; only healthier options could be purchased and certain foods - for example sausages - were unavailable.

A second voucher was offered in exchange for comments after people redeemed the first.

Families were encouraged and guided to make swaps - such as thin-base reduced fat cheese pizza, wholemeal pitta kebabs and boiled rice.

So far, 214 Rock Ferry families have signed up to the scheme and 155 completed both surveys.

The questionnaires showed Chinese food was most popular, closely followed by kebabs and pizzas.

The report highlights a lack of understanding of healthy eating coupled with a desire for change; many people reported shock at what's in fast-foods and a keenness to learn more.

Most have now moved towards eating only healthier options from the takeaway, and eating them less often.

Finances also played a part in the changes - when people realised the cost and adverse health effects they were keen to try an alternative.

The initiative is a joint venture between public health and environmental services at Wirral Council.