No soft drinks, candies, or french fries…only clean water, sugar-free drinks and foods that contain a wide range of nutrients.
To promote a healthy diet and positive eating behavior and provide healthy eating environment to learners and to its teaching and non-teaching personnel, the Department of Education (DepEd) has issued guidelines on healthy food and beverage choices in schools and in its offices.
DepEd’s policy has categorized food and drink under green, yellow or red to guide schools on the food and drinks that can, or cannot be, sold in the canteens.
Soft drinks, candies and French fries fall under the red category which lists “foods and drinks not recommended in the canteen menu” since these “contain high amounts of saturated fat or sugar or salt” and may provide “excess energy or calories.”
The three categories are explained in the recent “Policy and Guidelines on Healthy Food and Beverage Choices in Schools and in DepEd Offices” issued by the Department of Education (DepEd).
The policy was signed by Education Secretary Leonor Briones as DepEd Order number 13 series of 2017, on March 14.
The guideline also aims to “provide guidance in evaluating and categorizing foods and drinks” in schools and DepEd offices,” Briones said.
The green category enumerates food and drinks that should always be available in the canteen and are “the best choices for a healthy school canteen.”
The yellow category cites food and drinks that “should be served carefully” since these “contain some nutrients but also large amounts of saturated or trans fats and/or sugar, and/or salt.”
DepEd said that foods and drinks under the red category, with saturated fat more than 5 grams, with trans fat; added sugar or total carbohydrates more than 20 grams and those with more than 200 mg sodium, “should not be served in healthy school canteens.”
Foods and drinks under the red category include: soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, sports drinks, flavored mineral water, energy drinks, sweetened waters, powdered juice drinks and any product containing caffeine (for school canteens); processed fruit/vegetable juice with added sugar of more than 20 grams or four teaspoons per serving; jelly, ice cream, ice drop, ice candies; cakes, donuts, sweet biscuits and pastries, and other sweet bakery products.
This category also prohibits selling of all types of candies, heavily salted snacks such as chips, french fries and instant noodles; deep-fried food including fish balls, kikiam, and fruits canned in heavy syrup.
DepEd warned that any personnel who violate any provision of the said guidelines “shall be dealt with administratively” as pursuant to its existing rules and procedure on administrative cases.
Foods in the “Green” category are those that should always be available in the canteen and are “the best choices for a healthy school canteen.” These are foods and drinks that contain a wide range of nutrients, with saturated fats less than three grams; with no trans fat; and those that have lesser added sugar and sodium per serving.
“Green” foods incude unsweetened milk, clean water and fresh buko water; brown rice or iron-fortified rice, corn, oatmeal and whole wheat bread; root crops like cassava and sweet potato, shell fish, lean meats, nuts, eggs, fresh fruits in season and green, leafy, and yellow vegetables.
Foods under the “Yellow” category should only “be served once or twice a week only, in small servings, and should be less prominent in the canteen menu,” DepEd said.
Foods and drinks under the “Yellow” category include 100 percent fresh fruit juices; fried rice, biscuits, pancakes/waffles, champorado, pancit, arrozcaldo, sandwiches with butter, margarine, and mayonnaise and processed food such as meat, fish, hotdogs, sausage, burger patties, chicken nuggets, tocino, tapa, etc.
UNHEALTHY FOOD PATTERNS
DepEd explained that “unhealthy food patterns – more sugars, fats, and oils, and less leafy green vegetable and whole grain cereals –and a sedentary lifestyle, led to an upward surge in overweight and obesity.”
Since schools “are recognized as good venues for health promotion strategies,” DepEd has directed all public schools to implement strategies that would help promote healthy eating habits.
Food intake options should also include those that “increases consumption of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts,” “limits the intake of free sugars” and “limits salt (sodium) consumption from all sources,” the DepEd said.
DepEd stressed that “canteens in schools and DepEd offices shall not sell foods and beverages high in fat and/or sugar and/or sodium” and that there should be “a shift towards healthier fat consumption by providing more of foods with unsaturated fats and limiting foods laden with saturated and trans fats.”