Students, particularly at the secondary level, are being encouraged to practise good nutritional habits by managing the foods they eat.
This can be done by boosting fruit, vegetable and water intake and reducing their consumption of foods and beverages having relatively high concentrations of salt and sugar.
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, is also urging parents, guardians, and teachers to play their part in guiding the youngsters along this path.
He emphasised that this is imperative to ensure that students are provided with the nutrients essential to their growth and development, while avoiding the foods that can potentially compromise these.
“One of the things we have to learn in our school system… is that the food that you eat, after a while, they become habits; and you can become addicted to certain foods. Sugar, for example… [if you consume a lot of it], after a while, you [can become] addicted to it and you will want it every day… [and it’s the] same thing with salt,” Dr. Tufton said, adding that “what you eat defines your body”.
He was speaking during activities organised by the Ministry of Health and Wellness at Tacius Golding High School in St. Catherine, on Thursday (June 2), to mark Caribbean Nutrition Day.
Dr. Tufton said consequent on the significant consumption of sugar and salt by youngsters, “too many of you are getting sick too early in life”.
“As students, [in] trying to be the best that you can be, you have to manage the things that you put into your body, because what you eat defines your body,” he added.
The Minister said the students are at the stage where they can make those decisions “on your own, when you come to school”.
He also encouraged the youngsters to engage their parents and guardians in discussion on what foods they consume at home.
Against this background, Dr. Tufton reiterated that the Government, through the Ministries of Health, and Education and Youth, will be implementing a Nutrition Policy that guides the quality of foods served to students at schools.
“Over the next month, you’re going to hear that cafeterias can only serve certain types of foods; they are going to have to cut back on the salt [and] the sugar. So, we’re going to promote good nutrition, which means a fruit a day, more water, and less salt and sugar, because when you eat well, it helps your brain to function [and] you learn more,” he indicated.
Dr. Tufton advised that he and other representatives of the Ministry will also be engaging parents, guardians and school administrators to discuss the matter.
“We have a long road to travel, but I believe that you have it in you to do well. So, let’s work together to get the job done,” he added.
Caribbean Nutrition Day, which was initiated by the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) in 2005, is observed annually on June 1.
Thursday’s commemorative activities at Tacius Golding and other schools and locations islandwide, represented an extension of engagements that started the previous day.
They were held under the theme – ‘Healthy Eating, Active Living – Shake the Habit’, in keeping with the focus on salt reduction in the diet.
These included several displays and presentations by representatives of the Health Ministry and several stakeholder partners, such as the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC), National Health Fund (NHF), Early Childhood Commission (ECC), Heart Foundation, and Diabetes Association of Jamaica.