Create Eating Culture With Healthy School Meals, Report Urges

A charity has called for a transformation in school meal menus from a feeding to an eating culture.

Obesity Action Scotland wants priority given to vegetables, soup and salads over puddings and desserts.

A report compiled by the charity suggests reducing sugar content and using unprocessed foods where possible.

It said: ''We found that Scottish primary schools frequently offer salad bars and salad bowls but serve puddings more often than soup and frequently serve red and processed meat.

''More consistency is required to ensure we have a positive influence on the health of children growing up across the whole of Scotland.

''We are asking national and local governments to place greater value on school meals and create an eating culture by using unprocessed or minimally-processed foods wherever possible.''

Two-thirds of primary pupils eat school meals, which the charity says offers an opportunity to drive dietary change in Scotland and act as a healthy eating example.

The report found ''free sugar'' intake is highest in children aged four to 18 compared to other age groups.

This means school-age children are consuming free sugar at three times the recommended level.

Cakes, cookies, sweetened yogurts and other desserts in school meals contributed to an excess in free sugars among children, the report found.

Obesity Action Scotland programme lead Lorraine Tulloch said: ''We found that Scottish primary schools serve puddings more often that soup and these puddings have an average of 14g of sugar.

''Change is possible and we have highlighted areas where that change is starting to happen, but more action is needed and greater priority and attention needs to be given to this subject to ensure we offer all our children the best start in life.''

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: ''All local authorities have a duty to provide school meals that meet strict nutritional requirements, ensuring that pupils are offered balanced and nutritious school lunches.

''Healthy eating in schools guidance exists to help local authorities and schools meet the current requirement. This includes advice on making puddings healthier.

''The Deputy First Minister confirmed on March 5 that a review of these school food and drink nutritional standards is under way to ensure the nutritional standards are the best they can be.''

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