Linda Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and can be reached at lgeggie@cfair.ca.

Does back to school mean more children are eating poorly?

Dietitian talks about back-to-school lunches

The old adage an apple a day keeps the doctor away seems to be something we might pay more attention to these days.

Not only does that apple contribute to health it also feeds our minds and ability to focus and learn. A new study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism that was conducted at the University of British Columbia highlights that Canadians are not eating enough good food at school to meet their dietary requirement of vitamins and minerals.

Researchers also found that during school, students were eating less nutritious foods and more sweet drinks, salty snacks and candy.

The study is troublesome for dietitians like Abby Langer. She says that children “can suffer from a decreased ability to learn and concentrate, focus. Their behavior can suffer if they are not adequately nourished both by not eating enough food and by (not) eating healthy food or the right types of food.”

Here in the Capital Region the last Adolescent Health Survey that was conducted in 2013 found that only 34 per cent of students in Grades 7 to 12 reported eating vegetables and fruit only once or twice the day before which is less than half of the recommended daily intake by the Canada Food Guide. We know that children need good nutrition to be able to focus, and have better learning outcomes, so what can be done to support this?

Perhaps one of the greatest ways we can impact children’s nutrition is good modeling.

If our kids see healthy eating habits by parents this can help to shape their habits too. Another aspect is to involve children in meal planning and in the purchase or growing of food, and in its preparation.

It may seem like a real challenge among all the other things involved in getting into the back to school routine, however having kids participate in packing their lunches may result in eating better during the day.

There are also concrete things we can do, and are being done, in schools to promote healthy eating. Activities like Farm to School BC, the BC Fruit and Vegetable Program, and using healthy vending machine guidelines and practices are some approaches in play.

Langer also believes that having a universal school lunch program would be impactful.

“We definitely need a national school lunch program,” Langer said. “We’re the only G8 country that does not have one. I think that it would really positively impact our kids’ nutrition and, further to that, their learning.”

One of the things that I have also heard from parents and a teacher alike, is to provide more of an emphasis on kids sitting down and eating their lunches together with sufficient time to eat.

Whatever we do, making an emphasis on enjoying good food during the school day as part of the learning experience will benefit our kids.

The research confirms it, let’s do what we can to create healthy eating environment in schools.

Linda Geggie is the executive director with the Capital Region Food and Agriculture Initiatives Roundtable and can be reached at lgeggie@cfair.ca.

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