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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Schools need better portion control in the battle against the bulge, Dubai health official says

Some pupils have obesity-related diseases more commonly seen in middle-aged people

Schools need to get a handle on portion control in meals, according to municipality officials.
Schools need to get a handle on portion control in meals, according to municipality officials.

Schools must look at portion control to ensure pupils aren't eating themselves into early health problems, a health official has said.

Dubai Municipality said schools are gradually getting the message when it comes to serving healthier food - but said quality and quantity needs to be looked at next.

The authority's 'Person-in-Charge' drive means every school needs one member of staff who is tasked with driving the push for healthy choices.

About seven in 10 have one already but the system is a work in progress.

“We are trying to get the persons-in-charge assigned by schools and ensure they can make decisions about the menus," said Jehaina Al Ali, head of the applied nutrition unit at the municipality's Food and Safety Department.

"We are creating new training programmes for 'persons in charge' and the decision makers in the schools to help them promote healthier eating.”

She said the training will be piloted in July.

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“Obesity and diabetes rates are very high among children, and some pupils are suffering from hypertension. We see kids having these diseases, as if they are in their forties or fifties.

“Now, we are looking further into the quality of the food that needs to be portion controlled,” she added.

The municipality is visiting schools to ensure they are implementing guidelines and is working to find out about challenges they are facing.

They are also meeting with catering companies to ensure guidelines can be implemented by September.

“Pupils spend a large amount of their day in the school and they need proper nourishment so that they are able to learn. We have to make sure they avoid the processed food dominant in the diet here, and eat the required fruit and vegetable portions,” said Ms Al Ali.

In April, Dubai Health Authority, said schools would have to encourage pupils to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, and set physical education classes at 150 minutes per week.

Last year, schools were again told to change their canteen menus in an attempt to control rising childhood obesity levels.