Chicote investigates the food in school canteens: an expert tells us what childhood nutrition should be like

A few weeks ago Alberto Chicote already went to the dining rooms of special education schools. This week is the turn of the other school canteens.

In this case, analyze the food our children receive in schools and if they are covering their nutritional needs. To address the issue of child nutrition we have spoken with Iria Quintáns, dietitian-nutritionist at the Júlia Farré Nutrition Center and a specialist in child nutrition.

Proper nutrition is especially important in childhood

Neither children, nor adults, nor older adults get rid of the importance of proper nutrition in our lives and in our health. In all cases it is recommended that we worry about following proper nutrition and nutrition, however, during childhood, this aspect becomes more relevant if possible.

Among other things, it is due to greater nutritional needs: “in the preschool and school stage, the nutritional needs are increased with respect to the bodyweight of the child and their energy requirements, if we compare it with those of an adult. It is not surprising since physical growth will increase from 2 years until puberty steadily. ”

Therefore, the foods they consume have special relevance according to the nutritionist: “It is one of the reasons why, in children’s age, it would be advisable that the foods they consume do not provide empty calories, but are of a high nutritional density to meet that demand, necessary for its normal growth and development. ”

Specifically, there are a number of nutrients whose need is increased during this stage as indicated by Iria Quintáns: “it would be the case of vitamin C (fruits and vegetables), vitamin E (nuts, olive oil and fruits such as avocado), calcium(dairy products and derivatives, legumes, nuts, broccoli and cabbage, enriched vegetable drinks, sesame seeds or fish such as sardines), or iron (meat, fish, eggs, whole grains, nuts and legumes) ” .

The importance of the future of what they eat both at home and at school

One of the most common debates regarding child nutrition and what our little ones eat is whether, really, what they eat in the dining rooms of their schools is important or the only thing that matters is the food they receive at home.

In fact, it is one of the arguments used tonight before Chicote to defend the food given in the dining room, ensuring that the cause of obesity and where you learn to eat badly is in homes. However, for the child nutrition expert, both school and home are relevant in this and in both areas our children learn:

“Both the family and school environment can influence their eating behavior, positively or negatively. And this will have repercussions on their nutritional status” Iria account: ” the school stage marks a before and after in some cases regarding food preferences Let’s not forget that feeding ourselves is also a social and cultural activity. They stop having as their only references to their closest environment (family), to start observing the new context that surrounds them. ”

At this stage, children establish new patterns of eating behavior, although the household continues to have a very important influence on their diet: “However, the weight of the family’s diet, before and during the school stage, remains a great influence”.

Food must cover children’s nutritional needs, but also encourage them to eat

The feeding of school-age children should ensure that they meet the nutritional and caloric needs they have: “both the energy they need and the percentage of nutrients will depend largely on the weight, age, sex and physical activity of the children “explains the nutritionist.

In any case, there are certain estimates: “from 4 to 6 years, with moderate physical activity, it is estimated between 1400-1600 kcal, increasing from 7 to 10 years, from 1700 to 1900 kcal, approximately.” Regarding the nutritional percentage, Quintáns explains the following: “among those age ranges, the% of carbohydrates is 45-60%, and between 20 and 35% of total fat. The remaining percentage would correspond to the needs of proteins.”

But the fact that their diet covers nutritional needs or not is not the only thing that matters when talking about infant feeding: “there is something that arouses in children the desire to do something: curiosity” assures the nutritionist. To this end, it encourages us to make them protagonists: “If we strengthen their interest in food, we let them be protagonists and assume responsibilities in the purchase and preparation of meals and above, they have us as an example, we have a long way to go!”

For the expert, the example we give at home is essential: “whenever possible, an adequate and nutritious food environment should be promoted at home, making healthy food available to them and that they see that this lifestyle is also ours. In addition to not forcing them to eat, respecting their own feelings (hunger, appetite, satiety) Within healthy eating it is also very important to be aware of our relationship with food and what we transmit (am I always on a diet? prize with food ?, what do I say about my physical appearance? ) “.

Regarding the role of the school and what we should expect from our children’s school canteen, Iria is clear: “The school canteen should provide a nutritionally safe intake, offering different groups of fresh and seasonal foods, at the appropriate frequency”.

The type of food we choose is of great relevance: “ensure that water is the beverage during meals and that it is preferably cooked with olive oil. That plant-based foods predominate over animal-derived foods, offer whole grains, reduce to the maximum the presence of precooked and cooked as fried, as well as limit the presence of red and processed meats. ”

But it is not only about the chosen foods, but there are other aspects to take into account: ” it should also be sensory correct, according to different ages, and ensure that food safety measures are used. Through the school menu, you can promote environmental and social aspects, such as sustainability or the gastronomic culture of each area. ”

In addition, Quintáns refers to the importance of attending and respecting the feelings of children: “also offering amounts that respect their feeling of hunger, without coercing if they refuse to eat (better serve little and give an option to repeat) and providing reasonable time to enjoy a relaxed atmosphere. “

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