Tackling junk food at school

Heart and Stroke Foundation SA has introduced a new programme for school tuck shops aimed at introducing healthy eating habits for pupils.

Heart and Stroke Foundation SA has introduced a new programme for school tuck shops aimed at introducing healthy eating habits for pupils.

Ayesha Seedat, a dietician at the foundation, says the programme was designed to deal with the problem of unhealthy eating habits among school children and to encourage them to make healthier choices when given a range of options.

Seedat says: "To achieve this we encourage school tuck shops to serve more nutritious snacks and meals.

"It requires that schools set nutrition standards for all foods sold at school, including those in vending machines and tuck shops.

"We will address changes to school tuck shops and lunches, including increased offerings of fruits, vegetables and wholegrain foods; providing more baked instead of deep-fried foods; and placing limits on the fat, sugar and caloric content of foods served," says Seedat.

She says they will train tuck shop staff and guide schools on how to make tuck shops healthier.

"The availability of healthy food choices will go a long way to getting children to eat smart," Seedat says.

"Very low fat restricted diets are not recommended. The focus is on a healthy, balanced approach.

"Parents and caregivers can influence what children eat. The availability of healthy food choices within the care environment and in lunch boxes can positively influence a child's nutritional intake.

"The school tuck shop or canteen is easily accessible to children and is therefore a great way to start providing them with suitable food choices," she says, adding that parents should monitor what children eat to control weight.

She says limits can be placed on cakes, chips and takeaway foods, and that allowing it to happen too often might result in children not eating fruit and vegetables and thus becoming overweight.

"Eating junk food is also costly compared to home-made food," Seedat says.

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