An important part of the Australian education system is being taught about the importance of eating healthy and reducing obesity, according to a new study.
Key points:Teaching about healthy eating is important to reducing body weight and improving nutritionAn early childhood obesity intervention is also recommendedKey pointsThe National Obesity Control Program aims to improve the nutrition and physical activity of Australia’s schoolchildrenThe study examined the impact of school teaching on schoolchildren’ diet and physical activitiesMore than half of Australian schoolchildren are overweight or obese, and around 25 per cent of Australian children are currently obese.
The report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies said teaching about healthy food was essential for improving body weight.
“Research suggests that the key factor in improving body fatness and improving physical activity in schoolchildren is to encourage healthy eating, and this includes eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and whole grains,” the report says.
“In addition, encouraging the consumption of fruit and vegetables at school and encouraging the uptake of healthy fats at home may also reduce body fat.”
The report suggests schools can use lessons about healthy foods to help students learn about healthy behaviours.
The study, which was published in the journal Obesity Care, was conducted by the School of Public Health at Sydney University.
It included students in grades four to six and was funded by the Commonwealth’s Department of Health and Human Services.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funded the study.
Professor Tim Williams from the School’s School of Population Health and Global Health said the research showed that teaching healthy eating to children would be very beneficial.
“The National Childhood Obesity Survey found that the proportion of children in primary school who are overweight is now a national concern,” he said.
“As well as the positive impact on body weight, healthy eating habits in school can also contribute to the development of physical fitness, which is associated with increased mental health, a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and better health in later life.”
Dr Williams said there was no doubt that encouraging healthy eating at school was important.
“Children’s obesity rates are at a record high in Australia and the Australian Government is very clear that we need to be taking action to address this,” he told ABC Radio National.
“Our children’s health and wellbeing are paramount.”
Professor Williams said schools could use lessons in healthy eating.
“Teachers can be very helpful and they can teach the lessons about how to eat healthy to make it easier for children to eat more, eat less, and exercise,” he added.
“And if we can teach healthy eating as part of school time, then that is an important way to reduce the number of overweight children who are not eating enough, who are consuming unhealthy foods and who are struggling to get their weight down.”
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