STUDENTS often look forward to lunchtime when they break for recess in school. But are they consuming the right types of food for healthy growth?
According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022, there is a rising prevalence of obesity, poor dietary choices, and excessive consumption of carbonated soft drinks and fast food, besides physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour, among Malaysian adolescents aged 13 to 17. The NHMS 2022, which was conducted from June to July last year and involved 36,000 students from 240 secondary schools, also revealed that four in five adolescents do not consume an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables.
Navena Srie, who is a participant of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team, got her peers to comment on the canteen food choices in their schools and how canteen operators can help improve students’ diets.
I usually buy food in school and I always enjoy the simple yet appetising spaghetti aglio olio. I also like to get a box of strawberry milk to drink as I know it’s good for my bones.
There is room for improvement in terms of the food choices for students.
Canteen operators should provide a variety of food as per the food pyramid.
That way, students will not only be able to enjoy different types of food, but also keep a balanced diet.
– Audris Ng Wen Ying, 13
I bring food from home, but I also buy food from the canteen.
My school offers different types of food ranging from nasi lemak, char kway teow, chilli bihun and mixed rice to fish and chips, sausages with mashed potatoes, burgers and spaghetti.
I believe the foods hit all the tiers of the food pyramid.
They are freshly cooked before lunchtime, which helps decrease the chances of bacteria growth.
However, they can sometimes be too oily, especially the dishes in the mixed rice.
Canteen operators should reduce the amount of oil when frying the dishes.
– Mabel Wu, 15
I buy my meals from school every day.
I enjoy the selection of food, particularly the tender and crispy fried chicken.
I finish my lunch with biscuits.
However, the food selection is not always healthy as I find certain dishes to be especially oily.
Canteen food should contain a balance of nutrition and offer a wider variety of options for students.
This will improve students’ physical and mental health, encourage healthy eating and contribute to a healthier nation.
– Yuan Jie, 14
I bring food from home for better control over my diet.
In my school canteen, the food offerings often include a variety of options such as nasi lemak and curry puffs.
While tasty, these choices are also rich in calories.
Canteen operators can enhance students’ diets by incorporating a more balanced, nutrient-rich meal.
This includes salads, whole-grain options and lean proteins, which promote healthy eating.
Forging partnerships with local farmers for fresh produce could also provide better quality food.
– Pranav Aryan, 16
I usually bring food from home as I prefer home-cooked meals.
My school canteen provides a wide range of food options, including sandwiches, salads, fruits, fried rice, noodles, and other hot foods.
While some choices are healthy, many others tend to be oily and unhealthy, and students may be tempted to buy sugary carbonated drinks and processed snacks.
To enhance students’ diets, canteen operators should promote balanced meals.
For instance, introducing a “build-your-own” salad bar with diverse toppings and offering water stations can encourage healthy eating habits among students.
– Shivani Viswam, 13