HPB introduces ‘Healthy Set Meals’ in primary schools

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No time to pack a healthy lunch box for your kids? Now you don’t have to worry about your child making unhealthy choices for their meals in school.

HPB's Healthy Eating campaign in primary schools

HPB’s Healthy Eating campaign in primary schools

The Singapore Health Promotion Board (HPB) launched a new initiative back in July 2011 to ensure that school children were eating healthily in school.  This came as great news for all parents who were worried about what their kids eat in school!

According to research by HPB, only 25 per cent of children aged 7 to 12 years in Singapore were served the recommended servings of vegetable and fruit daily.  Previous Minister of State for Education Masagos Zulkifli revealed in a speech that 9.7 per cent of primary, secondary and junior college students in Singapore were obese.

So to inculcate healthy eating habits from young, it partnered with Wellington Primary School to launch “Healthy Set Meals”. The primary school in the Sembawang area were to serve bento-styled set meals with the right portions from the four main food groups – carbohydrates, protein, fruits and vegetables – to the 1,500 students.

Healthy set meals for kids in school

Healthy set meals for kids in school

Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor who was the Guest-of-Honour at the launch, said: “We encourage more schools to join in this programme and aim to roll it out to ideally all schools. There are a lot of benefits for the students where they are likely to carry into adulthood tackling obesity related problems which are a growing concern as we become more affluent.

“But this is not just about educating them. Because the meals contain right portions from the four main food groups, whatever they pick, they are consuming a healthy and balanced diet.”

HPB chief executive Ang Hak Seng emphasised the need to target the young in the battle against obesity. “Inculcating good eating habits at a young age increases the chance of children adopting well-balanced dietary practices in their adult life,” he said.

“We have targeted the school environment to influence the eating behaviour of schoolchildren as they consume at least one to two meals per day in school canteens.”

The set meals were redesigned by HPB dieticians who trained the canteen vendors on healthier cooking methods, ways to include healthier ingredients such as brown rice and the right portion sizing for children. Chefs were also engaged by HPB who were tasked to make the meals look attractive and tasty.

Teaching kids to make healthy food choices

Teaching kids to make healthy food choices

Student Daniel Ling, 11, who was chomping down a bowl of miso noodles soup with chicken, said: “It’s very tasty and very healthy. It’s nutritious and I like it very much.”

The new canteen menu was changed daily to ensure variety. Each of the five stalls served two types of set meals, and according to vendor Mdm Amrina, the “prices are almost the same as previously.

“But we now have three serving sizes – small, medium and large, just that they are priced differently. Last time, spaghetti was 80 cents. Now it’s still 80 cents but for small size.”

Parents like Mrs Tay welcome such efforts. She said: “At home, we cook healthy food and don’t allow too much of fried food. We couldn’t control that when she’s (my daughter) in school but now the school is helping us do that, which is very good.”

While it has not been easy to convince the students to start eating vegetables, Mrs Fatimah Frauder, Wellington Primary School’s head of department for physical education and aesthetics said, “Through health education lessons and reinforcing the messages, hopefully the students will bring it back home and ask for the same thing.”

Sources: Straits Times and Channel News Asia.

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