Over the years our school dinners have gone from bad to worse, with parents having no knowledge of what their children are eating in school. Recent research has shown that more money is spent on prison and dog food than on the food provided in our mainstream schools.
In 2013, the council removed all the so-called ‘unhealthy’ options from the dinner menus in Rhondda Cynon Taff schools. For instance, Freddos, crisps, and foods high in salt and so on were removed as part of a healthy eating lifestyle scheme to encourage children to choose healthier options early on. But where it is all very well taking away some of the unhealthy options, it is not possible to be rid of every unhealthy food. This doesn’t matter as long as there is a balance between the two, however the scheme failed to create a healthy balance. There is no healthy option; there is no salad available, there are three pieces of fruit to share among a comprehensive school of a thousand. There is a choice of 12 drinks, only one of which is healthy. The others consist of high sugar juice drinks such as Five Alive and Capri Sun, the fizzy drink ‘Grapetizer’, a slush puppy ice drink, hot chocolate, caffeinated drinks such as tea and coffee, milkshake drinks such as Viva and Yazoo, and Minute Maid apple and orange juice drinks made from concentrate.
All of these drinks are high in sugar, and none are healthy. The new breakfast menu is no better, including pizzas, bagels with melted cheese, bacon rolls, flapjacks, nutri-grain bars, oat cookies, and raspberry muffins. All of these breakfast options may seem innocent enough, but when no control is placed on the intake of these it is dangerous. When a child is allowed to eat four slices of white toast, one slice of pizza and a bacon roll, they are taking in 111 g of fat. This is not healthy eating. In order to maintain the healthy eating policy, these foods must be restricted, and vegetables and fruit must always be available. A healthy eating scheme will not be achieved until these changes are made.
A few other tasty and healthy options for the breakfast menu could be fruit with yoghurt and nuts, or cereal with fruit and honey.
For the dinner menu, instead of serving chips cooked in oil, pizzas, and chicken dippers, how about fish options with vegetables, or a ham salad dinner with mash potato? For dessert, again fruit with yogurt or a fruit salad can be served. These are tasty, easy to make, and more importantly they are healthy options that the children will love.
These foods provide all the vitamins and the protein that children need. This way, schools can still serve chocolate because there is a guarantee that children will be eating a healthy, balanced meal.
Most efforts to start the healthier school meals have been successful, but now it just needs this last push to fully complete the healthy eating scheme.
So what do you think? What’re your school meals like? Comment below!
Photo Credit: Northern Ireland Executive
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