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School-based nutrition education: lessons learned and new perspectives

  • Carmen Pérez-Rodrigo (a1) and Javier Aranceta (a1)

Abstract

Nutrition is a major environmental influence on physical and mental growth and development in early life. Food habits during infancy can influence preferences and practices in later life and some evidence suggests fair to moderate tracking of food habits from childhood to adolescence1–4. Studies support that good nutrition contributes to improving the wellbeing of children and their potential learning ability, thus contributing to better school performance5–7. Children and young people who learn healthy eating habits, are encouraged to be physically active, to avoid smoking and to learn to manage stress, have the potential for reduced impact of chronic diseases in adulthood4–8. Nutrition education is a key element to promoting lifelong healthy eating and exercise behaviours and should start from the early stages of life8–11; it should also address the specific nutritional needs associated with pregnancy, including reinforcing breastfeeding12.

Food habits are complex in nature and multiple conditioning factors interact in their development13. Young children do not choose what they eat, but their parents decide and prepare the food for them. During infancy and early childhood the family is a key environment for children to learn and develop food preferences and eating habits. As they grow and start school, teachers, peers and other people at school, together with the media and social leaders, become more important. Progressively children become more independent and start making their own food choices. The peer group is very important for adolescents and has a major influence in developing both food habits and lifestyles13.

Community trials suggest that nutrition education is an accessible effective tool in health promotion programmes with a focus on the development of healthy eating practices14, 15.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: E-mail bisaludpublica@jet.es

References

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