In my last blog instalment I brought you a look at fuelling and cooling active kids – And just to recap; although active kids may have higher energy needs than their less active peers, these energy needs should be met through a nutrient dense diet, packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and rich sources of calcium. ‘Extra’ foods, like chips, pies, lollies, chocolates, and soft drinks, should be kept to a minimum and not consumed on a regular basis.
So next time you’re checking out the menu board at your local
soccer club canteen be sure to keep these nutritional priorities in mind…
Although that’s pretty useless advice given that canteens typically stock an abundance of chips, pies, lollies and not much else. In fact, it is not only canteens that are packed with this junk, it’s pretty much every family fun day, weekend barbeque, bowling alley, vending machine and supermarket you visit.
Given that these ‘food-like stuffs’ are everywhere it comes as no surprise that a recent study has pointed at an environment that promotes poor eating habits as the reason for increasing rates of obesity despite the fact that rates of physical activity have increased (this again goes to highlight that simply being active, without due consideration of your diet, is not enough to promote good health).
This role of environmental influences on eating habits has also been recognised in the drafted Healthy Eating Guidelines: Healthy Community and Sports Club Canteen Guidelines, which has just been released with the aim of providing guidance to community and sports clubs that want to provide healthy food and drink options.
These guidelines are a very promising start in bringing about changes in our food environments; however given that they are simply a guide available for voluntary implementation, there is still a long way to go before real changes are likely to be seen.
Amendments to the drafted Healthy Community and Sports Club Canteen Guidelines
Despite the intentions of this draft, these guidelines are far from a user-friendly document that is likely to assist canteens develop healthier menu options and create healthier eating environments, particularly for our children.
We have codes of practice in place for food venues to ensure a
quality of hygiene and safety in foods sold and I do not believe it is unreasonable to extend this code to consider the long term health and environmental impact of foods sold. I am not suggesting a complete ban on the sale of any particular food items, we of course still must take individual responsibility for the choices we make, but rather suggesting the Healthy Community and Sports Club Canteen Guidelines would serve the community far better if they were converted into a working code of practice which mandated the availability of healthy options, limited the serving size of ‘discretional’ food choices, promote the marketing of healthier food choices (e.g. only ‘recommended’ foods are available in meal deals, ‘recommended products be preferentially placed for sale).
What about School Canteens?
Regardless of whether this document come into effect as a voluntary guideline or a code of practice, the inconsistencies with current nutritional advice and other food labelling systems needs to be addressed.
The drafted Healthy Community and Sports Club Canteen Guidelines have opted to label foods as either ‘recommended’ or ‘not-recommended’ – this seems simple enough, however we already getting set to see the new ‘health star’ front of package labelling come into place and have school canteens following the ‘traffic light’ system. Wouldn’t one consistent labelling system be far more user-friendly?
Speaking of school canteens it seems extremely short sighted to have neglected to include school canteens from this drafted guideline (and as
far as I am able to see, from any other draft), given the childhood obesity crisis we are experiencing.
The current National School Canteen Guidelines are out dated (2010), and no longer reflect the current dietary guideline (2013). Similarly to sporting clubs, school canteens would benefit extremely from having a code of practice in place to guide their menu development and sale
Unlike the current drafted Healthy Community and Sports Club Canteen Guidelines, the National School Canteen Guidelines do provide quantified criteria for foods fitting into each category. It would again be good to see a consistent criteria applied across our canteens and front of package labelling systems.
But this in part, is where the challenge lies as assessing the nutritional quality of a food items is far more than simply a numerical classification. For instance, varieties of zero energy soft drinks numerically many appear superior to a milk product, despite milk being a more nutritious option for a variety of reasons. And of course fruit and vegetables don’t come with a label.
The problem being that, as a population, we have been surrounded and immersed in this processed, packaged, artificial food world of so long, we lack the food literacy skills (or common sense) to recognise ‘healthy’ options and make choices that will benefit our health and the health of the environment – real food doesn’t come in packets.
The Healthy Community and Sports Club Canteen Guidelines are still only in their draft form so it is not too late to raise these issues, make comments on the draft and help influence the food environment that has us trapped in the obesity epidemic.
Submissions can be made here: http://anpha.gov.au/internet/anpha/publishing.nsf/Content/news-20130807
Or feel free to make comments on this blog and I will make a compilation for submission.
- Nikki -
Nikki is a PhD qualified Nutritionist and an expert in children's eating.