Roy Ballam, Managing Director and Head of Education at the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) introduces the seventh annual BNF Healthy Eating Week, taking place 10 – 14 June 2019, and explains why you should get involved.
The childhood obesity crisis is a burgeoning issue. Most of us are aware that almost one third of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese and finding ways to improve diet and lifestyle is key to tackling this.
A survey of 2,707 11-16 year olds in the UK, conducted as part of BNF Healthy Eating Week 2018, showed us that 12% of young people are not sure what the healthiest foods are. 36% of secondary school pupils commented that they don’t like healthy foods and 20% said that healthy foods are boring.* So, education about nutrition, cooking and food provenance is enormously important – if children can understand the importance of, and be familiar with, the foods that make up a healthy diet this might support them in making healthier choices.
For seven years BNF Healthy Eating Week has been providing the opportunity for schools and nurseries to take time out of the average school week, and enjoy spending time thinking about health and wellbeing.
Through BNF Healthy Eating Week, we aim to deliver evidence-based nutrition information, direct to schools, that is easily digestible (excuse the pun) and easy to introduce in the classroom. Registrants receive a variety of resources containing information on our health and wellbeing themes, as well as some fun, educational activities to engage students with throughout the Week.
BNF Healthy Eating Week comprises five health challenges which schools and nurseries are encouraged to complete, and each year the fifth challenge changes.
This year, the five challenges include:
Emerging research is linking poor sleep quality to less healthy food choices and increased risk of obesity. We feel it is important to address this issue and so have introduced the new ‘Sleep Well’ challenge for 2019. Resources will highlight that getting enough good quality sleep is a key element of healthy lifestyles. Where a poor night’s sleep can lead to both adults and young people feeling grumpy and irritable, regular lack of sleep can have a negative impact on dietary choices, including higher intakes of calories and fat. Sleep is also important for cognitive function which impact communication, memory and creative thinking – all key for children in education.
Breakfast, as we know, is an important meal. It helps to get the day off to a good start by providing the energy and nutrients the body needs for good health. This is particularly important for keeping school children engaged throughout the morning. Our challenges aim to spark students’ interest when it comes to their first meal of the day and encourage them to make healthier, varied breakfast choices during the Week.
Have 5 a day
This year, we want to highlight the importance of vegetables within a balanced diet. Vegetables, alongside fruit, provide a range of different vitamins and minerals that are needed for a range of functions in the body and fibre, which is important for a healthy gut. Challenges focus on eating a range of colourful fruit and vegetables, reaching out to the curiosity and inquisitive nature of children.
Encouraging children to drink fluids regularly is important – it is not always something that they remember themselves. It’s also really important that children make healthy choices when it comes to drinks, going for water most of the time and avoiding sugary drinks.
As well as encouraging children to be more active, it is also important that we aim to reduce the amount of time that they spend inactive; evidence suggests that too much sedentary behaviour is bad for health. The challenges will make being active fun for the students, with previous activities including star jump, hula hoop and skipping rope challenges.
All of our materials have been designed so that the initiative can be continued all year round. Last year the week was enormously successful, with 4,632 schools participating, representing 2,012,261 young people. We are excited to continue this year, and hope that action taken across society, including government, schools and the food industry, can help to make healthier choices easier for all – now and in the future.
Sign up here – www.foodafactoflife.org.uk
* The research was conducted among 4,587 children of primary and secondary school age across the UK. Full survey results available upon request.