How to help reduce childhood obesity through healthy school canteens

25% of Aussie kids are overweight or obese

Did you know that overweight and obesity affects 25% of Australian children and adolescents¹?

The three main factors contributing to this issue are unhealthy food choices, lack of physical activity, and family eating habits².

Now is the perfect time to start to combat childhood obesity before it affects more Australian kids. Most kids are at school five days per week, so school is an integral location to instil healthy habits and encourage nutritious eating.

What can schools do to encourage healthy habits?

  1. Offer regular ‘fruit breaks’ throughout the day to encourage students to eat fruits and vegetables instead of unhealthy snacks.

  2. Consider developing a school vegetable garden. Each class could have a day where kids help in the vegetable garden. Teachers can explain how vegetables are grown, how to take care of them, and why vegetables are good for your health. This information may help kids become more interested in vegetables and more likely to eat them.

  3. Provide clean water fountains throughout your school. This should encourage kids to have water from the nearby fountain when they are thirsty, rather than gravitating towards a sugary drink.

  4. Use non-food rewards in the classroom (e.g. cool stationery and skipping ropes) instead of lollies and sweets. This is an awesome way to reward kids for their hard work and good behaviour, without offering unhealthy treats as rewards.

  5. Encourage students to be physically active at school. Classes could have a short break every day where they play an active game or sport against other classes. Schools may also like to encourage kids to be active at lunch, rather than just sitting and eating throughout the entire break.


What can school canteens do to encourage healthy eating specifically?

  1. Schools can review their canteen menus to figure out the percentage of foods that are healthy, moderate, and unhealthy.

  2. Ensure your canteen has a number of healthy options for families to choose from every day.

  3. Evaluate if some of the unhealthy menu items can be substituted with slightly healthier alternatives. For example, you could replace a cookie with a wholegrain muffin.

  4. Encourage healthy food and drinks through your online ordering system. With Flexischools, you can make an exciting post on the Flexischools app promoting a new healthy wrap on your menu. You could also create a special food day or event where you sell healthy foods like sushi, instead of ice-creams or slushies.

  5. Promote healthy eating at your physical school canteen. Perhaps you could hang posters out the front of your canteen or place flyers in your school classrooms to promote healthy menu items at your canteen.


How can schools show parents which menu items are healthy?

Flexischools is Australia’s leading online canteen ordering system for schools.

Flexischools has advanced technology that allows canteen managers to add each item’s traffic light category (Green, Amber, Red) to school tuckshop menus. Green traffic light foods are good, Amber traffic light foods are okay, and Red traffic light foods are not recommended.

The traffic light ratings for each item are shown on the Flexischools app. So when parents are ordering food for their child in the Flexischools app, they can see which foods their kids should eat regularly (e.g. rice, fruit, vegetables, lean meat, fish) and which ones they should only eat every now and then (e.g. fried foods, doughnuts, ice creams, jellies).  


Why is it important to use the Flexischools traffic light system?

According to a Child Health Poll conducted by The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne³:

  • 57% of parents say it is hard to know which foods are healthy choices when buying food for their family.

  • 67% of parents say it is hard to know how much added sugar is in the food they buy for their children.

It is often really tricky for parents know which menu items at their child’s school canteen are healthy and unhealthy. This may be because they don’t know which ingredients are used in each item, so it is difficult to figure out the item’s nutritional value.

Additionally, some foods and drinks like fruit juices may sound healthy but are often deceptively high in sugar. Through the Flexischools traffic light system, schools are able to classify certain fruit juices in the ‘red’ category, so parents know if it is an unhealthy item that should only be consumed rarely.

The Flexischools traffic light system allows schools to help parents understand which menu items are healthy. This can assist parents in ensuring that their child is enjoying a healthy, balanced diet at school.


Translating healthy school canteen habits into everyday life

The healthy eating knowledge that parents start to learn through the Flexischools traffic light system may also be incorporated into each family’s home life.

For example, a parent may decide to make a chicken dish for dinner. Instead of their usual fried chicken, they might make a chicken stir-fry with vegetables as they remember a similar meal at their child’s school canteen had a green traffic light rating.

By encouraging healthy eating habits at your school canteen, you can help families understand which foods are good for their health. This in turn promotes healthier family eating habits outside of school and may help decrease childhood obesity.






Want to learn more about Flexischools? Click here.


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