An environmental group has made a pitch for nutritious and budget-friendly home-prepared school “baon” that can ease hunger and provide good nutrition as well.
In a statement released ahead of the opening of the new school year this coming Monday, the EcoWaste Coalition gave a thumbs up to simple but healthy “baon” ideas as it drew attention to the risks of consuming food high in fat, salt and sugar, especially for young kids.
“Every child deserves a healthy ‘baon’ that can provide the nutrition needed by her or his growing body and promote full and sound development,” said Ofelia Panganiban, a healthy food advocate and an officer of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“By preparing healthy ‘baon’ under their watchful eyes, parents do help kids in minimizing their intake of nutrient-poor snacks that contain too much fat, salt and sugar,” she said.
“Fostering healthy food choices will lead to healthy weight and lifestyle, while also preventing children’s exposure to bacterial and chemical toxins in some food items,” she pointed out.
As for morning or afternoon snacks, Panganiban recommended native delicacies such as glutinous rice cake (biko) and puto (steamed rice cake) and boiled or steamed banana (saba), cassava, corn, peanut, sweet potato (kamote) and taro (gabi).
She suggested homemade bread spread or jam from popular fruits like banana, mango and papaya, as well as root crops such as purple yam (ube) and sweet potato (kamote) that are available all year round.
For vitamin-rich thirst quenchers, Panganiban suggested making juice from any fruit in season, including ginger lily (kamias) and tamarind (sampalok); creating pretty concoctions such as “Pink Lady” (water from boiled purple camote tops with calamansi juice) or “White Lady” (from blended or mashed star apple) or drinks from boiling lemongrass and pandan leaves.
At the same time, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the Department of Education and the Department of Health to work with lawmakers of the 16th Congress in drawing up a law that will “protect children from the impact of unhealthy food marketing” as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO at its 63rd World Health Assembly in 2010 adopted a set of recommendations to discourage and protect children against unhealthy diets, including ensuring that all settings where children gather are free from all marketing of unhealthy foods.
According to Resolution No. 5, “such settings include, but are not limited to, nurseries, schools, school grounds and pre-school centers, playgrounds, family and child clinics and paediatric services and during any sporting and cultural activities that are held on these premises.”
In line with the recommendations of the WHO, the EcoWaste Coalition requested government and school authorities to take concrete steps to protect kids from the effects of unhealthy food marketing that can lead to overweight and obesity, or the “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.”
According to a WHO factsheet, “childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of obesity, premature death and disability in adulthood. But in addition to increased future risks, obese children experience breathing difficulties, increased risk of fractures, hypertension, early markers of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and psychological effects.”
To reduce overweight and obesity and their related non-communicable diseases, the WHO has emphasized the need for “supportive environments and communities are fundamental in shaping people’s choices, making the healthier choice of foods and regular physical activity the easiest choice (accessible, available and affordable), and therefore preventing obesity.”
According to WHO, people can at the personal level: 1) limit energy intake from total fats and sugars, 2) increase consumption of fruit and vegetables, as well as legumes, whole grains and nuts, and 3) engage in regular physical activity (60 minutes a day for children and 150 minutes per week for adults).
At the societal level, WHO highlighted the need for sustained political commitment and the collaboration of many public and private stakeholders to ensure people’s access to a healthy lifestyle, including making regular physical activity and healthier dietary choices available, affordable and easily accessible to all - especially the poorest individuals.
The food industry, according to the WHO, can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by 1) reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods, 2) ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers, 3) practicing responsible marketing especially those aimed at children and teenagers, 4) ensuring the availability of healthy food choices and supporting regular physical activity practice in the workplace.