Healthy Heroes Lunch Club.
While childhood obesity levels in Ireland are stabilising, at least one in five children are still overweight or obese*. Now, a lunchtime initiative for primary schools from the Irish Bread Bakers Association of Ireland aims to educate children about nutrition, in an effort to make it easier and more convenient for children – and their parents - to create a healthy lunch.
Designed by teachers and behaviour change experts with the support of Dr Mary McCreery, one of Ireland’s foremost consultant nutritionists and dieticians, the Healthy Heroes Lunch Club encourages children to learn and change their eating habits, educate them about nutrition and boost their activity levels, all whilst having lots of fun in a non-competitive environment.
According to Dr McCreery, “One of the aims of the programme is to decrease the amount of treat foods and increase the nutritional value of the lunch box. The school lunch box should provide about 25% - 35% of a child’s energy and nutrient needs. Yet studies have shown that packed lunches are deficient in “healthy” foods and tend to be high in sugar, saturated fat and salt, while low on starchy foods and fibre.”
Dr Mary McCreery added, “The classroom is the perfect place to help improve children’s knowledge of food and what they eat for lunch. Incorporating healthy eating habits from a young age and in a playful environment is a vital stepping stone to their future food habits.”
As part of the Healthy Heroes Lunch Club, children form a lunch club that meets to eat together regularly and where nutrition is addressed informally and in a fun way through teacher-led discussion, using materials provided in the Healthy Heroes Lunch Club pack. Led by sixth class pupils, the children then take over and run activities, building on suggestions in the Healthy Heroes Lunch pack, which also encourages them to develop their own club games.
The programme contains useful tips and suggestions on ways to include fruit and vegetables in lunch boxes as well as easy – to- understand information on the food pyramid and the contents of the ideal lunch box. The lunch of the month meanwhile offers plenty of suggestions that are designed to encourage children to have a more balanced lunch.