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Healthy Foods and Drinks Help Kids Learn

Media Release


January 28, 2008


Healthy Foods and Drinks Help Kids Learn

The food and drinks children have during the school day does affect how they behave and learn.

For that reason, the Taranaki District Health Board Health Promotion Unit encourages parents and caregivers to have healthier choices on hand for the lunch box production line.

“Teachers often comment that well-nourished children are “teachable” children”, says Public Health Dietitian, Sara Knowles. “Many Taranaki schools are making fantastic changes around food and nutrition, but what comes in the lunch box is still largely influenced by what is available at home.”

“A school lunch box should contain a range from the four food groups, such as a peanut butter or meat sandwich; some yoghurt, cheese or frozen milk; and a couple of serves of fruit and vegetables.”

Many people equate healthy with expensive, but this needn’t be the case.

“Healthy school lunches can be made with a limited budget,” says Ms Knowles. “One of the first ways to save is to include home-made or home-packed snacks. The convenience of having everything in a fancy packet comes at a cost - in dollars, nutrition and litter. Snacks such as dried fruit and nuts, crackers, homemade popcorn, cubes of cheese, sliced oranges, carrots and celery can all be put into resealable bags or small containers. These can be washed at the end of the day and reused.”

By planning ahead, parents and caregivers can stock up when they do their big grocery shop. “But remember to read the labels”, she says.

“Look for the nutrition information panel on the side. Find the “per 100 gram” column and try to find products which have less than 10 grams of fat and sugar. Many foods marketed as being good for school lunches won’t meet those criteria. The good news is that fresh, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, and bread will.”

Buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season or, better still, grow your own. Cocktail tomatoes are easy to grow, and great to nibble on at school. Canned fruit, drained and put into a little container or bag is a good option, as are frozen berries.

When it comes to drinks, water is the best option, and many schools encourage water only. A bottle of frozen water in the summer lunch box will help keep the food fresh and cool. “Include a second bottle of chilled water for the classroom”, says Ms Knowles. “If children are well hydrated they will be able to focus and learn better.”

Kids only get one shot at their education. Providing them with healthy foods and drinks for their school day is one way parents and caregivers can help children to do their best.


ENDS

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