As a key provider of food and drink for students, it is essential that school canteens offer healthy options. These should align with nutritional messages taught in the classroom.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommends young people enjoy a range of food each day. Options including fruit and vegetables, grains and cereals, dairy, and leans meats and protein all form part of a balanced diet. Foods which are high in fat, sugar and salt should be eaten occasionally.
Food choices on offer at school canteens and tuckshops will impact the messages students are receiving about healthy eating. Ensuring your school provides a range of nutritious foods including fruits and vegetables and food rich in wholegrains, is vital to reinforce healthy eating messages taught in the classroom. Portion sizes should be suitable for children, who need to eat less than adults.
Good nutrition has many benefits for children. These include healthy brain development, stabilised mood and energy, increased focus and concentration, maintenance of a healthy weight, and learning good eating habits for life.
Online lunch ordering systems can provide a simple solutions for families. Generally accessed through an app or website, online ordering services allow families to view the tuckshop menu, order and pay online. In some cases, customisable menu options are available. This allows your school to have different menu items like ‘specials’ each day, or add a bespoke menu for a school sports carnival, or to align with an activity such as Harmony Day.
Online ordering systems mean students do not need to take money to school, and will not risk losing it before they place their lunch order. Making tuckshop choices at home, before your child is at school ensures you know what they are eating, and that you are happy with their choice.
Looking to make healthy eating fun and tasty at your school? School News spoke to an industry supplier for their tips and tricks.
Menu Development Manager at Libelle, Anya Bell, stresses the importance of a good diet for children. “Eating nutrient dense wholefoods is critical for children’s overall health, academic performance and wellbeing. As a key gatekeeper of children’s nutritional choices, schools play an important role providing nutritious meal options and guidance to healthy eating that make a difference in their overall wellbeing now, but also lifelong wellbeing outcomes.”
Ms Bell said schools should develop a nutrition culture that is firmly embedded in your schools values. This will help children learn the skills to make well informed choices later in life.
“Sticking to water and plain milk are better drink choices. Schools should ensure that there is a range of balanced meal options available that cover a range of food groups. Consider how your school will manage treat foods and the messages that you are sharing. There are healthier options of sweet foods and there are manufacturers who wholeheartedly support the opportunity to supply better choices.
“We know that children in Aotearoa generally do not achieve their RDI of vegetables and the important micronutrients that they get with these foods, so anything that heroes vegetables will make a difference. Wholegrains provide more sustained energy than refined grains. Any meal or snack that contains a balance of wholegrains, vegetables, quality protein and healthy fats will go a long way to sustaining children throughout their school day. Within that framework there are plenty of enjoyable options!”