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Advice - WHAT SHOULD YOUR CHILD BE EATING IN SCHOOL?

Summary: Long gone are the days of processed chicken dinosaurs, turkey twizzlers and stogy smiley faces. We take a look at what children of today should be eating in school to ensure healthy, happy development.

When considering a school, standard of education isn't the only thing a parent should be looking at. With obesity taking its hold on the UAE, ensuring that children are consuming the right types of food has become an evermore-important area of focus.

Believe it or not a whooping 47.5% of residents are overweight, according to a survey released by Zurich International Life -- a scary figure that continues to rise.

Sadly, an obese child is more than likely to grow into an overweight adult -- not only effecting their quality of life, but their risk of disease and ultimately their lifeline.

With a large proportion of a child's upbringing spent in school, it's important for parents to be aware of what's being served in the school cafeteria.

Healthy eating can help children in school by stabilising their energy levels, sharpen their minds and increase their moods and motivation to learn. Yet, on the other hand if a child's diet lacks certain nutrients and contains high amounts of processed food and simple sugars getting children to succeed at school is a difficult task, Dubai-based nutritionist, Chloe Moir tells.

As a word of advice to parents, she adds: "Provide you children with the best opportunity to grow into knowledgeable and healthy adults by feeding them the right nutrients to support this."

Whether parents like it or not, once children start school they have more freedom to decide what they will and will not eat -- so, educating them on what a healthy, well- balanced, varied diet comprises is important. Children's meals need to include a variety of foods in order to meet their nutritional needs.

The school day is long and energy demands are high, both physically and mentally. When hunger strikes, moods dip and the ability to concentrate wanes. What our children have for lunch needs to be nourishing and provide a good source of energy to last throughout the afternoon, explains BBC Good Food's expert, Jo Lewin.

"Eating too much or a lunch that is high in fat or sugar can leave children sleepy or struggling with tummy ache. Banish these symptoms by choosing foods for your child's lunchbox that are nourishing and sustaining enough to get them through the day but not too heavy to slow them down," she says.

Schools should be serving:

* a variety of nutritious foods

* plenty of vegetables, legumes and fruit

* plenty of cereals (including breads, rice, pasta and noodles), preferably wholegrain

* lean meat, fish, poultry and/or alternatives e.g. nuts or legumes

* reduced fat milks, yogurts, cheeses and or alternatives

* water as a drink

Schools should be taking care to:

* limit saturated fat and moderate total fat intake

* choose foods low in salt

* serve only moderate amounts of sugars and foods containing added sugars

Wakey wakey, sunshine!

What children consume before stepping through the door plays a big role in how they feel for the rest of the day. Here are a few tips to bear in mind:

Cereals -- are seldom as healthy as they appear on the packet. Read labels carefully to ensure you're not buying processed cereals overloaded with sugar and salt. Opt for unsweetened boxes such as bran based and oats, then serve with freshly cut fruit, raisins or organic honey.

Protein -- incorporating proteins like egg, baked beans or natural yoghurt into breakfast will help to keep a child's appetite satisfied for longer, which will prevent unhealthy snacking.

Hydration -- children can something confused being thirsty with hunger. When they ask for food, be sure to check they're not actually thirst and needing water for hydration. Avoid sugary juices and pops.

Did you know......

Sometimes when children are going through a tough time at school -- with exams for example, the body can exhibit this upset in their gut. They may complain of tummy ache, or have trouble going to the loo. Dig a little deeper into what might be going on before assuming it's an allergy or intolerance. Many children do experience constipation -- and dehydration can be one of the most common reasons, as can a lack of fibre. Fibre needs plenty of water to help it 'bulk out' the stool and stimulate the gut to move it through, so make sure you boost fibre and water in the diet or you can make constipation worse. Jo Lewin says you should choose wholegrains, oats, quinoa, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lentils and beans.

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Publication:BBC GoodFood Middle East
Date:May 31, 2016
Words:779
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