Practical Ways Schools Can Encourage Healthy Eating

Last year, the National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) found that 20% of reception-age children in Kent were overweight or obese. By the time they reached Year 6, this figure had risen to 33%. Obesity is a serious issue, and can have some long term health impacts, so we need to start education about healthy eating early. Schools in Kent have actively been giving out Change4Life material to help educate children and their families about the long term benefits of making healthy food choices. However, there are plenty of ways that teachers can help their students in the battle against obesity

Eating all together

Cross-sectional research done by Harvard Medical School and the University of Loughborough found that children and teenagers are more likely to make healthy meal choices if they are eating together as a family. The same theory can be applied to school meals - we are more likely to be making healthy choices if we eat together in this same way. Studies have shown that teachers eating with their students at lunchtime is beneficial too - it gives the teacher an opportunity to lead by example. You can not only encourage healthy meal choices, but also show students what is appropriate social interaction during meal times. 

Preparing fresh food together

A study done by the University of Alberta found that children who help cook and prepare meals are more likely to pick fresh fruits and vegetables to eat. Cooking is often a neglected subject, particularly in primary school; however showing students how versatile fruits and vegetables are can help them grow into healthy adults. Making easy recipes in lessons, like a simple smoothie, will encourage children to take the skills that they have learned and try them at home. All you need to do is blend together some fresh fruit to make a delicious and tasty drink, full of flavour. Blending fruit is also an easy way to get your five-a-day, maintain a healthy weight, and use up food that might not always get eaten. If you have limited classroom space to prepare food, children will enjoy making simple recipes like fruit kebab skewers, and even easy chopped salads and coleslaw. 

Learn about food labelling

One of the ways that the Change4Life campaign is trying to get children to make healthy food choices is to teach them about food labelling. In your school lessons, you can use several different foods and compare labels between them - this can also be used as an opportunity to discuss percentages. Talk about what would be better alternative choices than processed products. For instance, a Munch Bunch Fromage Frais, which is marketed at children, doesn’t just contain fermented milk and fruit: the ingredients include sugar, maize starch, three different types of thickening gum, sugar syrup and two different food colourings. A small pot of Fromage Frais actually contains more than 10g of sugar. That is over half the amount recommended for a 6 year old child. A small bowl of natural yogurt with some added strawberries would be a healthier food choice. Discussing food labels in your lessons is way of imparting this knowledge, encouraging children to make healthier choices outside the classroom.

The food choices that children make can have a big impact on their health and well-being. Teaching them to choose a balanced diet at school can help them grow into healthy adults.

Looking for other ways to encourage children to stay fit and healthy? Why not get your school involved in The Daily Mile, a fun, free global initiative to get children moving!

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