Brain food: the benefits of a healthy, balanced diet
A healthy, balanced diet doesn’t just support a child’s physical development, it’s also essential for their brain power. At Kings’ Education, snack time and school lunch are both a social and learning occasion.
Most parents will be familiar with the challenge of persuading a five-year-old to try broccoli for the first time or convincing an 11-year-old that Fruit Loops don’t count towards their five-a-day helping of fruits and veggies.
At Kings’ Education, the hot topic of nutrition and healthy eating is reinforced across all three schools, both as part of the learning journey and on the plate – with a carefully developed school meals programme designed to feed hungry stomachs and boost brain development.
The right foods can help improve brain function, memory, and concentration – as well as provide enough energy to last the entire school day. Leafy green vegetables and fruits such as berries are packed with vitamins and offer antioxidant benefits to help brain cells grow, while the protein and nutrients in eggs can boost concentration and fish is a powerful source of Omega 3s and vitamin D.
According to Samantha Kleinschmidt, Administration Manager for Kings’ Education, 65% of primary students and 35% of secondary pupils at Kings’ School Al Barsha currently opt for school-provided meals.
“We work hand in hand with the PH7 Catering team, who are experts in providing balanced, nutritious and multicultural meals that the children also find exciting to eat,” she says. “We make sure that we incorporate what we call ‘hidden goodness’ in all our dishes, with a focus on flavour and quality as well as nutritional benefits.”
Healthy snacking is also encouraged with a delicious slice of carrot bread and melon cubes an example of the carb and fresh fruit Primary morning snack, with lunch composed of international main dish options, veggies, sides and a dessert.
Sunday could be sweet and sour fish goujons; Tuesday, a creamy cauliflower chicken with peppers; and Thursday, a delicious vegetable paneer masala, accompanied by varied side dishes including rainbow veggies, carrot rice and the creatively named ‘broccoli forest’.
The secondary ‘grab and go’ canteen set-up includes vegetarian and non-veg meal options with a choice of daily salads, cold snacks and live pasta stations.
Nutrition isn’t the only thing on the menu, as Rebecca Gray, Principal, Kings’ School Al Barsha, explains. “Lunch brings everyone together in a communal location where social skills are important, from the basics of using a knife and fork properly to table manners and the etiquette of sharing a meal together. This is why spaces like our new Primary canteen are also key learning environments.”
Getting children to eat their greens or try new things, is all the easier when they are with their peers, and Kings’ Education also includes world cuisines in both its menus and through special events, such as a recent Emirati food tasting as part of UAE National Day celebrations.
“Our nutritionist also works with the Dubai Municipality, and within the boundaries of the recently updated UAE guidelines, to ensure that kilocalories, saturated fat, total fat, sugar and salt content are on point,” adds Sandy Poulis, Nutritionist and Programme Manager, PH7 Catering.
A ‘no nuts’ policy is already in place across the school and food labelling is very important, with all items clearly displaying any allergens, the requisite nutritional information and a list of ingredients.
While high sugar content drinks, and salt-laden or high saturated fat snacks are off the menu at Kings’, Sam notes that students do get to enjoy some sweet treats, such as cocoa brownies or banana cake, featured in the daily menus.
Sam, Sandy and the PH7 operations team also meet with a select group of Kings’ students on a regular basis to get first-hand feedback and find out what items they enjoy and what can be improved.
Children who bring their own packed lunches to school aren’t left out with the PH7 nutritionist and food programme manager popping in on a weekly basis to check out the lunchtime rush and chat with all students.
And while there isn’t a school tuck shop on site, Kings’ School Al Barsha’s popular parents’ café serves up more of the same health-centric fare for visiting mums and dads, plus afterschool snacks.