School Food Guidelines
- Removing the requirement for school cooks to analyse meal nutrient content could allow time for more creativity in menu planning
- Research shows children given the right nutrition display less antisocial behaviours
- Dietary increases in iron and zinc may help children progress in a learning environment
- Oily fish consumption guideline should be increased to improve learning outcomes
The schools food brief is a huge leap forward in ensuring that children are receiving good nutrition in schools. Removing the requirements for cooks to analyse the nutrient content of the menus allows them to be more flexible and creative with meal plans. Creating more exciting menus could encourage children to try different foods that they may not have eaten before and this could help improve their food choices outside school.
Fruits and Vegetables
The new guidelines emphasise the importance of increasing both variety and quantity of fruit and vegetable consumption. The requirement of two portions of vegetables to be given as an accompaniment with every meal will help to ensure that students are receiving the correct range of micronutrients across the school day.
Evidence suggests that getting the balance of foods in the diet right can help with both brain function and mental health. Research has shown that school children given dietary supplements display less antisocial behaviours.12 Increasing the amount and variation of nutrients that pupils are consuming within the school day may go some way towards improving behaviour.
Iron and Zinc
The guidance on providing non-dairy protein sources once a day to increase the consumption of zinc and iron is also very important to brain function. Some evidence has shown that iron supplementation can improve attention, concentration and IQ.3 Zinc has also been shown in children with ADHD to reduce symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and impaired socialisation.4 The new guidelines may therefore allow children to make increased progress within the learning environment.
The IFBB believe that the current guideline that oily fish is served once every three weeks in schools should be revised. There is a body of evidence suggesting that omega 3 essential fatty acids play a role in cognitive outcomes.5 If we make sure school children have the correct level of omega 3 fatty acids within their school day it may enhance cognitive abilities allowing individuals to reach their academic potential. Additionally, research has also shown that increased omega 3 fatty acids in the diet can have a positive effect on behaviour.67
In the most recent publication of the NDNS results showed that only 8-12% of children consumed oily fish over the 4 day recording period. The other point to note is that the most common source of fish for children aged 10 and under was fish fingers.8 There is a clear need for more fish to be provided within the diets of children and it is crucial that we give school children the necessary nutritional benefits of oily fish and therefore it should be a requirement that it is provided more frequently within schools.
- Raine A, Portnoy J, Liu J, Mahoomed T, Hibbeln JR. Reduction in behavior problems with omega-3 supplementation in children aged 8–16 years: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 2015;56(5):509-20. ↩
- Schoenthaler SJ, Bier ID. The effect of vitamin-mineral supplementation on juvenile delinquency among American schoolchildren: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2000;6(1):7-17. ↩
- Falkingham M, Abdelhamid A, Curtis P, Fairweather-Tait S, Dye L, Hooper L. The effects of oral iron supplementation on cognition in older children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr J. 2010;9:4. ↩
- Bilici M, Yıldırım F, Kandil S, Bekaroğlu M, Yıldırmış S, Değer O, et al. Double-blind, placebo-controlled study of zinc sulfate in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2004;28(1):181-90. ↩
- de Groot RH, Ouwehand C, Jolles J. Eating the right amount of fish: inverted U-shape association between fish consumption and cognitive performance and academic achievement in Dutch adolescents. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2012;86(3):113-7. ↩
- Hibbeln JR, Ferguson TA, Blasbalg TL. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies in neurodevelopment, aggression and autonomic dysregulation: opportunities for intervention. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2006;18(2):107-18. ↩
- Iribarren C, Markovitz JH, Jacobs DR, Jr., Schreiner PJ, Daviglus M, Hibbeln JR. Dietary intake of n-3, n-6 fatty acids and fish: relationship with hostility in young adults–the CARDIA study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004;58(1):24-31. ↩
- NDNS web link ↩