A NEW program which reduces the amount of calories school kids consume by 600 kilojoules - or half a McDonald's cheeseburger - will be rolled out in hundreds of the state's schools from next year.

The program called SWAP IT was devised by the University of Newcastle's Dr Rachel Sutherland and uses an app called SkoolShare to send parents electronic notifications with advice about healthy eating.

It gives them useful information like how much food they should put in a lunch box and healthy alternatives to unhealthy snacks, which in a trial of 44 schools around the Hunter reduced the amount of junk food consumed by children by 600 kilojoules on average.

Dr Sutherland said sugar laden biscuits and chips were the main high calorie culprits sent along to school, but warned parents that other seemingly wholesome foods like muesli bars should be a strict no-go.

"There are challenges for everyone in deciphering what is an everyday food and what should be a discretionary item or occasional snack … this program takes some of the guesswork out of it," she said.

Kids from Windale Public School near Newcastle took part in the
Kids from Windale Public School near Newcastle took part in the "Swap It" program which encourages healthy eating at school. Pictured are school mates, (left) Ashlyn Southern, 10, Mataio Thompson, 8, Ruby-Anne Davidson, 10 and Taylor Adam, 11. Picture: David Swift

Dr Sutherland said old fashioned vegemite sandwiches were still a perfectly fine lunch box staple but it was extra snacks which were driving up the nation's childhood obesity rates.

"If we can take one of those snacks out and replace it with one everyday snack then we can make a massive difference to population health," Dr Sutherland said.

In 2018, 24 per cent of Australian children aged 5 to 14 were considered either overweight or obese, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The SWAP IT program has already run in 150 schools, with 80 per cent of parents saying the healthy eating tips provided were helpful.

It will expand to all schools in the Central Coast, Mid North Coast and Hunter & New England health districts next year and discussions are underway to run the program in the remaining parts of the state.

Best friends Ashlyn Southern, 10, and Ruby-Anne Davidson, 10. Picture: David Swift
Best friends Ashlyn Southern, 10, and Ruby-Anne Davidson, 10. Picture: David Swift

Windale Public School near Newcastle trialled the program this year. Year 4 student Ruby-Anne Davidson said eating fresh fruit gave her more brain power.

"I like eating watermelon, mango, grapes, pineapple, berries, plums and basically all the Christmas fruits," she said.

"It is important to eat healthy food and fruit as it gives you lots of vitamin C and your brain can think more."

 

 

Originally published as The surprising 'health' food on new lunch box blacklist


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