Manila: In an attempt to promote a healthy lifestyle as well as lessen greenhouse emissions, Filipino school children are being encouraged to eat less meat by observing at least a day in a week with only fruit or vegetables on the dining table.

As the Philippines marks Nutrition Month, Representative Teddy Casino (Party-list, Bayan Muna) filed a measure seeking to institutionalise ‘Meatless Monday’ both in private and public schools to encourage consumption of vegetables among elementary and high school students.

Casino’s House Bill 6311 likewise seeks to aid the campaign to lessen greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gases, such as methane, are said to contribute to climate change and environmental degradation.

Casino said studies have shown that Filipinos are mostly meat-eaters and have one of the lowest per capita consumption of vegetables in the world with only 39 kg. A 2008 study by the Department of Science and Technology, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, shows that the Philippines has a severe double-disease burden, childhood malnutrition and adult obesity.

“A quarter of adult Filipinos are already hypertensive and seven million are diagnosed with diabetes, making the Philippines one of the world’s top ten epicenters of the disease. Each year, 200,000 Filipinos die of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), with heart disease being the leading cause of death. Long-term health care costs for NCDs are staggering. This also undermines the country’s economic development,” the lawmaker said.

He said targeting children and adolescents for dietary change will have a life-long impact on dietary habits and cardiovascular health than intervention procedures on adults.

“This underscores the fact that dietary patterns are established and consolidated in childhood and adolescence,” Casino said.

He stressed that a required, integrated, institutionalised and sustainable dietary strategy like Meatless Monday in schools would prove to be a productive and effective instrument.

Casino cited “Luntiang Lunes (Green Mondays)” founder and neuroscientist Dr Custer C. Deocaris who said that dietary behaviour is the most difficult habit to change. He said most health promotion campaigns fail due to a lack of compliance component for setting realistic goals and reinforcements. Dr Deocaris added that Monday among the days of the week may possess the greatest potential to serve as a tool to bolster long-term campaigns.