School canteens to reduce simit, toast, stuffed roll sizes in fight against obesity
Meltem Özgenç – ANKARA
Sizes of various pastries traditionally a part of Turkish breakfast will be reduced in Turkish school canteens, in line with new regulations unveiled by the Health Ministry and Education Ministry in an attempt to fight child obesity.
The ministries’ move came following recent studies that 22.5 percent of Turkish children aged seven to eight are overweight and obese. The authorities therefore started to implement tight control in school canteens and have prepared a booklet that lists the names of foods and drinks which are “advisable” for children to eat.
The booklet categorizes foods and drinks into different colors based on how nutritious they are. Food and beverages in the “green” and “orange” categories will be available in schools, whereas those in the “red” category are not “recommended” for sale at schools. School canteens will try to encourage children to increase their consumption from the “green” category and less from the “orange” category.
Food such as fruits, nuts, natural mineral water, yogurt, ayran (a yogurt-based beverage), and sugar-free gum are in the “green” group. Food and school canteens will accommodate all of these every day in their stocks.
On the other hand, various pastries traditionally eaten for breakfast such as simit, poğaça, toast as well as processed meats, ice cream, and juice are in the “orange” group. In an attempt to “discourage” children from consuming too much of these, the sizes of pastries will be reduced.
The booklet emphasizes that certain habits, including dietary habits, begin to form during the school period.
“Preventive measures contribute to the formation of beneficial habits, which can be effective on general health in future years. This is a period of opportunities during which proper nutritional and physical activity habits will be gained,” it reads.
“Inadequacy of the right advice and implementation in these ages [during school period] in terms of developing healthy nutrition habits, will not only lead to obesity or overweight in adulthood in the upcoming years, but will also increase the risk of developing chronic diseases,” the booklet says.
The booklet indicates that the prevalence for obesity has gradually increased in recent years. “To control body weight, maintaining a lifestyle with healthy nutrition and regular physical activity is highly important. Aside from obesity, unhealthy nutrition also increases the risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart diseases, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes,” it says.
Additionally, authorities will occasionally undertake various efforts to increase children’s awareness regarding dietary habits.