Dr Jimmy Chun Yu Louie, Lecturer for the UOW School of Health Sciences, has found that teenage boys are consuming the equivalent of 22 teaspoons of sugar every day. Reporter Tess Brunton speaks to him and a health-conscious student about how to limit your intake of empty sugars.
Only thirty per cent of primary schools and nineteen per cent of secondary schools are compliant with state guidelines regarding their menus, a recent study from The Parents’ Jury has found.
The study also found that nutritious items are consistently more expensive than their unhealthy alternatives.
“Kids can consume one-third of their daily calorie intake while they are in school,” says Angela Mallon, a spokesperson for the organisation.
“Obviously it’s important that they eat as healthily as possible during this time and good nutrition has been shown to be beneficial in aiding concentration and providing energy as well as healthy growth.”
Mallon says it’s important parents include as many healthy options as possible when packing kids’ school lunches.
“I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when adding treats or snacks– read the labels very carefully and remember that it’s often just as easy to send a fresh piece of fruit as it is food that’s been processed and packaged.”
Eliza Batten, a teacher at St Luke’s Preschool in Dapto, believes healthy eating is mostly common sense but it is something the staff talk about.
“We don’t let the kids eat chocolate, chips or other openly unhealthy foods,” she said.
“If they bring that in we send it back home in their bags with a note that says we don’t encourage those options… we’ll supply them with fruit or a muesli bar, or make a sandwich.”
The program educates volunteers about healthy eating, practical food ideas, presentation skills, kitchen safety and food hygiene so that they can become mentors and spread the healthy eating message to the local community.
“These are guidelines which are set to encourage healthy eating and obviously that makes it more difficult than if the choices kids are presented with are unhealthy and that makes their ability to eat healthy during the day more difficult,” says Mallon.
The Parents’ Jury is campaigning for all Australian canteens to have their food classified by a traffic light colour coding system which uses green for all the time foods, amber for occasional foods and red for foods that should rarely be consumed.
“Canteens… should make sure that there are as many green items as possible on the menu and limit Amber items and perhaps no red items at all. Red items are food that is higher in energy, saturated fats, sugars and salts and should be considered as extra foods and not part of a child’s everyday diet,” says Mallon.
Video: TESS BRUNTON
Multimedia: LIZZIE HUNTER
Words: VANESSA CONRY