Though more and more parents are fretting that their school-going children are moving away from home-packed lunches to eating at school or outside, international dietetic expert Ethan Bergman says that it may not be the worst thing in the world.
“Back in the USA, when we did an extensive study we found that the food from home was higher in fat and saturated fat content. There is no reason why this couldn’t be true for schools everywhere,” he said, after delivering an extensive lecture on Child Nutrition and Weight Management for the Heinz Nutrition Foundation India (HNFI).
Explaining this revelation, Bergman reasoned that most often parents who hadn’t cooked something for their kid’s lunch would resort to packing them ready-made or easy food like noodles or frozen stuff. “We have been striving hard to get kids to eat a uniform type of food that gives them the amount of nutrition they need. But for this, schools have to take the committment to provide lunch or food that is appealing to the students and good for them,” he added.
Bergman, who is the president of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has been instrumental in suggesting several dietetic and nutritional policy moves to the US government. On his first visit to India, he said that he had met several of the country’s best known dieticians and had heard about the growing child obesity burden here.
“We visited a school in Chennai yesterday and what I found was that the lunch menu at the canteen was very limited and offered children no choice. Without variety, kids are not going to want to eat there and as a result they will skip meals, go out and compensate by eating more junk food outside,” he cautioned.
The researcher also expressed his hope that he might be able to conduct some research on whether home food or canteen food was more nutritious in India, “That would be interesting to look into,” he added.
A sports nutrition expert, Bergman is an avid runner and still does between 5-10 miles thrice a week. Despite the many marathons that he has done across America, his proudest moment came when he did a sprint with the Olympic Torch as a torch-bearer prior to the London Olympics 2012.