| Dubai, United Arab Emirates


How schools are teaching kids healthy habits

Are kids learning enough about eating right? We go beyond school lunches to find out

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When it comes to what our children eat at school, everyone should be involved. UAE schools are putting a lot of thought into what goes into students’ tummies on a regular school day, and so are the parents. One school has ensured it’s well-embedded into the curriculum too.

A committed advocate for the future of domestic sciences in schools, and with Kings’ School Al Barsha being just one of a handful of UAE secondary schools which have a Food Technology Department, Food Preparation and Nutrition Teacher Isla Gray considers it extremely important that (nutrition and healthy eating) becomes a part of any curriculum for all children.

“Within KS3 we touch, through both theory and practical lessons, upon national healthy eating guidelines such as the eight tips for healthy eating and The Eatwell Guide,” says Gray.

At Kings’ Al Barsha, this starts from KS3, and follows the National Curriculum for England Design and Technology Framework, which stipulates that “all KS3 pupils are required to understand and apply the principles of nutrition and learn how to cook.” Each school year builds upon healthy eating and nutrition basics, developing knowledge and skills.

For Year 7 students, Gray explains, challenge tasks at the end of lessons often require them to evaluate dishes against healthy eating guidelines. “One of Year 7’s home learning tasks last term was to create a poster, song, poem, leaflet or any other collateral to demonstrate their knowledge of the eight tips for healthy eating – and some amazing work was submitted.”

This year’s plan of study focuses on lifestyle habits, and the requirements for healthy eating are connected to the way nutrients function. “In class, we cook dishes to meet the requirements of a baby, teenager and elderly person’s diet,” explains Gray.

For this year, healthy eating is the core focus of the “foods around the world” work unit, which was developed using GCSE Food Preparation and Nutrition specifications with the goal of building skills and knowledge to support students moving through to Year 10. “This term, students were required to plan, prepare and present three dishes in three hours, in line with a brief given to them by the GCSE exam board. I asked them to base it on a nutritious dish from a country of their choice,” says Gray.

The first term of the GCSE course is centred on food nutrition and health. Students create practical dishes to demonstrate their understanding of the principles of healthy eating and the sources/value of nutrients based on classroom theory.
“I try to encourage students to cook a variety of dishes using different ingredients; we sometimes use (and discuss) high-fat/sugar options to show that these should be eaten in moderation,” highlights Gray.

Parents’ corner

For schools, it’s important to introduce the concept of healthy eating to children as early on as possible, and equally important to support parents.

“Make easy child-friendly meals at home together by following simple recipes. Kings’ School Nad Al Sheba publishes easy-to-do healthy recipes in its Geronimo newsletter, but there’s a wealth of recipes available online too,” adds Gray.

“Sit down with your child when you’re meal planning at the beginning of the week and get them involved. Discuss what you’ll be eating for the week ahead (with a focus on healthy ingredients and preparation) and, with guidance, let them input their own ideas.”

Turning healthy eating into a learning experience is one of the easiest ways of bringing the concept into your kids’ lives. Give your child a task during meal times. Healthy eating should always be on the menu.
Kings’ School Al Barsha, Umm Suqeim Street, Al Barsha 3, Dubai (04 356 6900).

Time Out Dubai,

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