Abu Dhabi: The Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) is working on the second phase of its ‘Eat Right, Get Active' campaign, which it plans to implement across 25 public schools by January 2011.

The campaign seeks to ensure school nurses are well trained and food found in canteens is healthy.

The first phase of the campaign, which was rolled out in April, oversaw the distribution of age-appropriate health promotional materials for students.

Around 300 nurses were also trained on body mass index screenings and on the right nutritional advice to give to students.

According to findings issued by the Global School Survey, 12.1 per cent of adolescents across the emirate of Abu Dhabi are either obese or overweight — with 21 per cent at risk of being overweight due to an imbalance of calorie intake.

A school setting is the ideal place to promote health matters relating to children as it has been proven that it is easier to adapt and adjust habits at a younger age.

HAAD's campaign aims at increasing awareness of food groups and calories, as well as fostering behavioural change towards a healthy diet and the need for students to be physically active.

The Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) chipped in by facilitating the right dates to start the campaign across schools and also suggested the 25 appropriate schools for HAAD to start with.

Speaking about the initiative, Dr Mubarak Al Darmaki, Section Manager of Health Management at ADEC, said certain low-nutrition, high calorie foods such as chocolates and chips were not permitted on school premises. He added that individual schools have their own policies in place to enforce this.

Parents' discretion

"We would also like to advise parents to exercise good judgment in ensuring that they are providing balanced and healthy meals for their children," he said.

"The early incorporation of healthy eating and [a healthy] lifestyle is important [in] promoting the positive physical development of children, and to establish healthy habits at a crucial developmental stage."

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) currently has in place guidelines for school catering to ensure that schools serve healthy and appropriate meals to students.

ADFCA insists that food items sold in school canteens carry calorie labels. Certain food products, which the ADFCA labels as "junk food", are also banned from being sold in school canteens.

"ADFCA considers food safety at school canteens of special importance as it concerns the health of the children, whose well-being and welfare is very dear to us," said Mohammad Jalal Al Reyaysa, ADFCA's director of Communication and Community Service, said in a statement to Gulf News.

In the canteen: Permitted food items

-  Bottled water

- Whole wheat bread (white or brown)

- Boiled or grilled potatoes

-  Corn

- All kinds of beans or dried beans

-  Fruits

- Vegetables

-  Soya milk, dairy, yoghurt and cheese.

-  Jam

-  Muffins, biscuits (plain or stuffed with dates)

Not allowed

- Processed meat (sausages, mortadella, nuggets, burgers, shawarma)

- Nuts

- French fries and chips

- Ice cream

-  Chocolate bars and ice cream

- Jelly

-  Lollipops

-  Chewing gum with sugar

- Any type of sweetening containing colouring

-  Waffles

-  Soft drinks, energy drinks, flavoured water, sports drinks and slush drinks

Food allowed if certain conditions are met

-  Cereals (canned or packed)

-  Stuffed fruit pie (on condition that it's not more than 52 grams)

- Thin layer of garlic bread with olive oil (on condition that it should weigh more than 28 grams per layer)

-  Rice, noodles, pasta

- Pastries and manakish (not more than 52 grams)

-  Salad (dressing should be put aside, and should only be lemon, vinegar and olive oil)

-  Milk n Meat, chicken or fish should be grilled or boiled

- Butter-free popcorn

- Fruit juice and nectar — provided that the percentage of calories is controlled or according to the table above

Source: Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority regulations issued August 2010