Snacks restricted in schools

HSA community dietician and
nutritionist Bethany Smith prepared new food provisions that were introduced to
the Cayman Islands public schools for the 2010-11 school year.

The measure was introduced by
Cayman Islands HSA to teach young people how to adopt and maintain a healthy,
active lifestyle.

This year’s school menus include
balanced meals containing good sources of protein and starch, accompanied by
lots of vegetables and fruits, healthier drinks, and no unhealthy snacks.

Snacks restricted

The rationale of the seventh and
eighth standards of the Cayman Islands Public Schools: Standards for Food
Provision is similar to that for the standard regarding healthier beverages.

In these two standards, the goal is
to remove from schools snacks that have little nutritional value, may
contribute to excessive fat, sugar, sodium and calorie consumption, and may contribute
to obesity and tooth decay.

Related to the beverage guidelines,
the Alliance for a Healthier Generation has also developed competitive food
(i.e. snack food) guidelines for schools using current research, such as the
American Heart Association’s Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Children and 2006
Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.

The guideline’s aim is to balance
children’s nutritional requirements with the need to keep calories in check and
reduce levels of obesity. Thus, they have been adopted for use in local
schools.

Based on age (primary schools and
middle/high school), the competitive food guidelines call for limits to the
calorie levels per snack item — 150 calories and 200 calories respectively.

Total fat, saturated fat, trans
fat, and sodium levels are limited in addition to sugar content by weight of
the food item.

In addition, the food item must
contain a minimum level of two grams of fibre, five grams protein, or 10 per
cent of the daily value for select vitamins and minerals (Vitamins A, C, E,
folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium, or iron).

Therefore, the snack item sold must
be able to contribute some nutritional benefit.

While a local favourite in the
schools for break-time snacks, patties have also been restricted due to their
high calorie, fat, and sodium content (approximately 300 to 350 calories, 15
grams fat, 560 to 900 milligrams of sodium per patty).

The school food standards limit
patties to twice per month, and to lunch times only since they are more
equivalent to a meal than a snack.

With the exception of fruit and
vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and whole-grain sandwiches, snacks should
be served at snack times only.

They can also be offered for
after-school activities on school grounds and in fundraisers.

However, they are not allowed to be
offered during breakfast and lunch times in an effort to encourage children to
choose the more nutritionally balanced meal options.

Research has shown that many
children may choose to eat snack options, particularly sweet snacks, instead of
a balanced meal if given the opportunity.

“The competitive food guidelines of
the Alliance for the Healthier Generation definitely allow for a variety of
snack choices, and yet enables healthier choices overall,” Ms Smith said.  “Again, portion size awareness and control
are incorporated into the guidelines so that several favourite ‘kid-friendly’
foods are still available, but in smaller quantities.

“The food industry has been
responding to these efforts in schools by reformulating or developing new food
products that meet these guidelines.”

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