When our kids spend so much of their time at school, it's reassuring to know schools are taking multiple steps to promote healthy eating and living.
From cutting back on our meat intake to ensuring we’re getting our five a day, good food habits are often at the forefront of parents’ minds. Why? Because we’re all for instilling good eating habits in our children that they can take with them into adulthood. It’s a big responsibility, and can be a struggle at times!
In fact, research has shown our children’s food preferences are developed during their younger years. And, once they hit adolescence, those acquired eating habits are more resistant to change. Eeek! But the good news is, we’ve got some awesome partners on our side: teachers. Yep, the school environment plays a big part in helping promote, nurture and sustain healthy eating habits in our kids.
So, with that in mind, we’d like to shine a spotlight on what international schools are doing across Singapore to promote healthy eating. Read on to find out what’s happening in the canteen, classroom and beyond… you might even be inspired to bring some tips to your own dining table!
Healthy eating in schools: how our kids are supported
1. Healthy food starts as early as preschool
If you’ve got teeny tots at home and they go to preschool, you might find they’re out of the family home for a big chunk of the day. So it’s super important they’re encouraged about, educated on and given healthier food choices. In fact, us HoneyKids mums love the fact our young ‘uns at preschool get to eat carefully planned meals and snacks that tick all the boxes. It’s a huge weight off our minds!
We also love how they’re introduced to lots of different foods at preschool – even some they might not normally eat at home. Trying is the most important thing, we say! Setting our kids up right from the start is so important that the Health Promotion Board set up the Healthy Meals in Pre-schools Programme (HMPP). It aims to empower preschools to provide healthier meals and encourages them to educate children on eating right.
2. Meals are always carefully considered
At Shaws Preschool, for example, the children’s meals include a hot lunch, plus morning and afternoon snack. So what’s on the menu – and how do the staff help encourage healthy eating? “Our menu is designed by a nutritionist to ensure the children get their required nutrients, with minimal oil and sugar, and have the HPB certification,” says Deborah Shaw, Principal at Shaws Preschool Lorong Chuan campus.
Healthy eating in schools is all about balanced meals, with lots of vegetables and fruit. “We don’t serve processed or sugary foods, and we opt for brown rice, wholemeal bread and wholemeal pasta,” continues Deborah.
3. Teachers explain what’s on their plates
Here’s one us parents can absolutely ‘bring to the table’, so to speak: talking with the kids about what we’re eating.
“In the Early Years, we speak all the time about healthy and balanced eating in class,” says Head of Early Years at SJI International, Kat Kendon. “Eating a ‘brainfood snack’ each day, of vegetables and fruit, is part of our regular daily practice,” adds Clement Lee, the school’s Chief Operating Officer. “It’s not simply part of a unit of work.”
Over at Shaws Preschool, mealtime is a great opportunity to discuss food and instil good habits. “When the meals are served, the teachers and children talk about what is in the food, and why we eat the different types of food,” says Deborah. The school also runs its own cookery program, Little Chefs, to give the children a more hands-on experience. “It’s definitely a highlight of the week!” she adds. “All Shaws Preschools have vegetable and herb gardens, too. The children love watching them grow, and are always excited when it’s time to pick them.”
4. Healthy eating in schools is part of the curriculum
When kids have a greater understanding of something, they’re much more likely to be interested in it. It’s why the ‘grow your own’ approach is such a success, for starters! With older children, we’re pleased to see many international schools in Singapore offer subjects that centre around food. Australian International School, for instance, currently offers Food Technology to grades 9-12. “The purpose of the course is to develop students’ knowledge and understanding about food nutrients and diets for optimum nutrition,” says Sarah Harris, vocational education and training coordinator. Among other things, students also develop practical skills in planning, preparing and presenting food.
And if you don’t take the subject but still want to learn more? They’re got that covered, too! “Four cooking co-curricular activities are available throughout the year for students not electing to take Food Technology, but are still interested in learning more about food.” Over at SJI International, food is an integral part of learning, too. “In Early Years, the children learn about what keeps us healthy, plus we get to look at foods around the world, visit sustainable food gardens and grow our own food,” explains Kat.
5. Schools encourage active lifestyles
Of course, to complement all that healthy eating in schools is a healthy, active lifestyle. And schools are great at encouraging our kids to keep on moving! “There’s a very big emphasis on healthy food alternatives at AIS, such as replacing white rice with brown or mixed rice in the canteen, ensuring there is always a vegetarian alternative and offering healthy snacks,” says Sarah. “But on top of that, AIS provides a school environment that encourages being active. For example, there are playground facilities, access to equipment and secure bike racks to encourage students (and staff!) to ride to work.”
6. It’s all about the water
Of course, all that learning is thirsty work. And, when it comes to washing down all that gorgeous healthy food at school, water is king. “Our students are highly encouraged to bring their own water bottles and drink as frequently as they wish to,” says Clement.
So there you have it: some super-awesome efforts to promote healthy eating in schools. Now all us parents need to do is keep up the good work at home!
Top image: Jill Wellington from Pexels