The benefits of nutrition programmes in schools 

According to a recent study conducted by Yale University, nutritional programs in schools could help children to eat a balanced diet and maintain healthy body mass indices (BMIs).

The researchers point out that this could help to address the issue of poor diet in children, which is known to have an array of health consequences that often persist into adulthood. 

The study involved a dozen schools in New Haven, Connecticut and the researchers collaborated with the Rudd Center to track approximately 600 students over a five-year period.

These schools introduced various health-promoting initiatives aimed at educating children about making healthier choices. These initiatives included:

  • Sending newsletters to parents and students containing nutritional information.
  • Reducing the practice of rewarding students with food or beverages for good behaviour or academic performance.
  • Ensuring that all school meals met specific nutritional standards.
  • Encouraging students to drink water instead of soda or other sugary drinks.

Participants in the study experienced only marginal increases in their BMI, with an average rise of just 1%. In contrast, students attending schools without such health initiatives saw an average BMI increase of approximately 3-4%.

Furthermore, the study found that over the five-year period, participating children consistently made healthier choices compared to their peers who did not receive similar educational interventions.

To reinforce the lessons learned at school, the researchers encouraged parents to continue nutritional education at home by assisting their children in understanding nutrition labels. 

Given that some of the information on food packaging can be complex for children, parents can help by explaining serving sizes, calorie content, and key nutrients such as sugar or saturated fat. This parental involvement can facilitate healthier decision-making habits in the long term.

Lead author of the study Jeannette Ickovics added: “These findings can guide future school and community interventions. Childhood obesity is a serious health threat, and schools are a vital way to reach children and their families to reduce risks and promote health…These findings strongly support previous administration policies that provided healthier food for all children in public schools.”

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