Good nutrition – an adequate, well balanced diet combined with regular physical activity is a cornerstone of good health. Childhood and adolescence are the most critical phases for health and development. During these phases the physiological needs for nutrients increase. Eating habits, lifestyle and behavioural patterns are developed during this period that may persist throughout adulthood. Therefore it is very important that a child consumes a high quality nutritious diet as well as learns good eating habits.
Consumption of healthy diet during childhood and adolescence helps reduce the risk of many nutrition related health problems like obesity, dental caries and micronutrient deficiencies and also helps keep one away from the risk of chronic ailments like heart diseases, diabetes, osteoporosis etc in adulthood.
Thus, a good nutritional status in childhood is of paramount importance for later physical, mental & social development.
How schools can play an important role in creating awareness?
Schools and educational institutions provide a key environmental setting for promoting healthy choices as the norms. Schools can focus on establishing a wider approach on developing a concrete food and nutrition policy that can not only bring short term improvements among the young minds but also help build healthy attitudes. Such approach to healthy eating will provide them with the opportunity to learn food and nutrition skills and how they can implement them both within and outside school settings.
Schools can also come up with innovative ideas like:
- Health & Nutrition Counselling Cells: Schools can start with such counselling cells under the supervision of a qualifies Dietician/ Nutritionist who can help counsel children with various aspects of food and nutrition, importance of nutrition at every stage of life, impact of nutrition on health, healthy lifestyle patterns, developing healthy eating habits and many such other related aspects. Besides, these counselling cells will also benefit parents in understanding their child’s needs.
- School healthy meal programs: Schools can start with healthy meal programs which would provide children healthy & nutritious food in school campus. Preparing a menu with fresh, healthy and nutritious food choices for breakfast, mid – meal and lunch along with their health and nutritional benefits would help. Such initiative will not only offer healthy food options but also will create awareness about food.
- Celebrating some important days: Schools must celebrate days like “World Health Day” and “National Nutrition Week” etc. These days give an opportunity to spread awareness about the importance of health and nutrition. Schools can come up with different themes each year so that the children join in with great interest and enthusiasm.
- Health & Nutrition awareness seminars/ workshops/ activities: Schools can also schedule few “Health and Nutrition Awareness” talks/ seminars/ workshops/ activities for children so that they learn about the various aspects of diet form qualified health professionals. Besides, such seminars should also be organised for parents so, that even they gain knowledge on their child’s health and nutrition. Also, workshops can be organised for parents on topics like healthy tiffin recipes for kids etc.
- Physical activity session: Schools must include a daily 30 min physical activity class in time-table. Outdoor physical activity class such as games like football, basketball, badminton etc, aerobics, yoga, swimming as these activities will help children being active.
- Nutrition and Health education material: Distribution of interesting and colourfully designed Nutrition and Health education material on concepts like my plate, food pyramid, 5 food groups, impact of poor nutrition on health, healthy lifestyle etc will help children learn and gain knowledge on these topics.
- Involvement of class teachers: Class teachers should also take some initiative and take some time out on discussing the children’s food intake by asking them to maintain a food diary which can be discussed in class on regular or weekly basis. Also, giving assignments to students to read about any food and its importance and discuss with their class. This creates interest, curiosity and enthusiasm to learn new things among children.
So, why not take a step and spread awareness among children? Children are our future. So let’s make our future strong and healthy!!
Let’s make our children, Start healthy… Stay Healthy!