Adapting school lunches for better health

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We recently published an article about how to inspire healthy eating in children. Parents always face the mammoth task of forcing vegetables down the throats of stubborn toddlers, the world over, but we recognised the fact that involvement and education had more to do with the willingness of youth than some of us initially thought. We decided to investigate further, and show how school lunches are being adapted to address childhood obesity. 

Reported by Pew Charitable Trusts in 2016, children consume more than 50% of their daily kilojoule requirements during school hours (this includes time spent at extra-curricular activities). Another study found that something as simple as offering more variety could actually increase the likelihood of a child choosing fruit over a dessert for lunch. One such example is this fantastic plate provided to students by a school in Maine, USA:

Pew Trusts, school lunch in Maine, USA

Image source: Pew Trusts

Simple but effective measures which have been introduced at schools in Japan, South Korea and parts of the USA, include the following steps:

  • Reduce the amount of salt in foods (select ingredients with lower sodium content or simply add less when cooking)
  • Increase whole grain usage, whether in flour or as direct ingredients
  • Offering extra-curricular activities which include planting, garden trivia, harvesting and meal preparation
  • Teaching children recipes and offering quiz rewards to improve engagement with food and healthy eating choices

Image source: Business Insider

Schools in Japan have gone as far as encouraging students to serve each other lunch and create a valuable experience for both the young servers and diners. Many studies have proven that Japan’s prevalence of childhood obesity is lower than that of countries like the USA, the UK and South Africa. As long as these small lifestyle changes are adhered to, the health and well-being of youth across the globe will improve.

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