Campaign group Obesity Action Scotland has today launched a rallying cry for Scottish schools to prioritise veg, salad and soup over puddings to help tackle the country’s obesity problem.
The group wants local government election candidates to pledge to transform school meals in Scotland from “a feeding culture to an eating culture”.
It issued four recommendations including: use minimally processed food wherever possible, prioritise veg, soup and salads over puddings, reduce free sugar content in schools, and create a positive and social environment for school meals.
During its research, Obesity Action Scotland, which is funded by the Scottish government, found that children are offered puddings high in sugar and menus regularly offer processed foods. Scottish primary schools serve puddings more often than soup and these puddings have an average of 14g of sugar.
In 2015 school age children in Scotland ate only 2.7 portions of fruit and vegetables per day compared to the five portions recommended. And it found that school age children are consuming three times the recommended level of free sugars, with the main sources being cakes, biscuits, cereals, soft drinks, fruit juice, and yoghurt.
“We are calling on local government election candidates to commit to transform school meals across Scotland to ensure children have a healthy and happy experience with food” said Lorraine Tulloch, programme lead of Obesity Action Scotland.
“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.”
The organisation also said that living in obesogenic environments, where relative inactivity and overconsumption of energy dense foods is too available, affordable and accepted, is fuelling the current obesity crisis.
Last year, 10 per cent of primary children in Scotland were at risk of obesity, with consequences including discrimination, mental health problems, musculoskeletal complications, heart disease, stroke and common cancers later in life.
Preventing obesity in childhood is far preferable to attempting obesity treatment later on, because returning to normal body weight is more difficult for people who already have obesity, the organisation said.