School food and drink
Lunch, whether you have a school meal, a packed lunch, something from the local shops or a meal eaten at home, should provide around one third of your daily intake of energy, vitamins and minerals.
Lunch is important for refuelling as it helps you to concentrate during the rest of the school day. Choosing to have a school lunch is a great way of ensuring that you make healthy, balanced choice.
School meals in Scotland have undergone a transformation due to the Hungry for success initiative. The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007 ensures that food and drink provided in schools complies with nutritional requirements specified by Scottish Ministers by regulations.
The Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in schools (Scotland) Regulations 2008 sets out the proportion of nutrients that young people should receive from an average day’s school lunch as well as which foods and drinks can be provided outside the school lunch, including breakfast clubs, tuck shops, vending machines and after school clubs.
Making your own packed lunch can offer lots of advantages: you’re more in control of what you eat, especially if it is too tempting to eat foods on offer in canteens or shops. Taking a packed lunch can offer flexibility if you’d like to participate in lunch time activities. And a packed lunch can be cheaper too! Base the contents of your packed lunch around the Eatwell plate.
For healthy lunch suggestions click Healthy snacks and lunches
Your body needs water or fluid to work properly and to avoid dehydration. That’s why it’s important to drink enough fluids. Water makes up about two-thirds of the weight of a healthy body. Most of the chemical reactions that happen in our cells need water in order to take place. We also need water so that our blood can carry nutrients around the body.
However, we lose water all the time, through evaporation when we breathe and sweat. If the temperature rises or we do more activity, this increases the amount of water we lose. We also lose water when we urinate as urine is mainly water.
To stay healthy, it is important to replace the water we lose. We can do this by drinking water and other fluids.
In climates such as the UK we should drink about 1.2 litres of fluids per day, that’s 6 to 8 glasses
Water is the healthiest choice for quenching thirst as it contains no calories or sugars, fizzy or still, fruit smoothies, pure fruit juice, milk, sugar free squash, flavoured water, regular or fruit tea, coffee and low fat malted or chocolate drinks all count towards the recommended 8 glasses of fluid per day.
Sugary soft drinks provide little nutrition other than calories and sugars, which contribute to tooth decay. Excess consumption of sugary soft drinks can imbalance the diet and lead to weight gain. The acid in diet or sugar free fizzy drinks and flavoured waters can also cause tooth decay.
Energy and sports drinks are high in calories and sugars, and often contain high levels of caffeine and sometimes other stimulants.
The only drinks which can be provided in schools are plain still or fizzy water, milk, milk or yoghurt drinks which meet the regulations or unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices (up to 200ml serving).
Tea and coffee can be served in secondary schools but can reduce the amount of iron absorbed from foods so should not be consumed by young children or those with small appetites.
The brain relies almost entirely on the body’s carbohydrate stores to work properly. Because we use up carbohydrate stores quickly, it’s important to keep refuelling every few hours, especially during exams. But there are smarter choices. Foods high in sugar can raise the body’s sugar levels but only temporarily. It’s much better to have foods which gently raise sugar levels over longer periods of time. These are usually more traditional foods eaten as part of regular meals like potatoes, pasta, beans, porridge and muesli. These foods often have a low glycaemic index (low Gi) foods.
Top tips for exam times
When preparing for exams it may feel like there’s no time to plan meals and snacks properly. It might seem easier to snack on biscuits, crisps or chocolate or even skip meals altogether. But skipping meals and eating badly won’t allow your body to perform at its best. Try these tips for healthy exam planning:
- Being thirsty or hungry limits your ability to concentrate so it’s important to eat and drink regularly. Include meal and snack breaks in your revision timetable
- Give yourself a head start by having breakfast
- Don’t skip meals
- Plan your snack to avoid grabbing the first thing available
- Balance your meals to ensure you have enough energy to get you through, the Eatwell plate can help
- Choose healthy options for snacks between meals (see the healthy snack section)
- Drink regularly throughout the day, especially in hot weather. Have a drink at breaks and lunch time and after sports. Carry a bottle of water with you to revision sessions and exams.
- Take a break every couple of hours, go for a walk or do something active.