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Advice on healthy nutrition from the Municipality of Prato

Advice on healthy nutrition from the Municipality of Prato

Mediterranean way to a healthy growing-up

Earlier this week, we reported on the Italian municipality of Prato’s transparency move in revealing exactly what local children were served every day at the school cafeterias for lunch. However, considering that these meals are only a small part of the nutrition that kids consume weekly, the authorities also dispensed some advice to parents so they could keep up that routine in order to provide their offspring with a balanced and healthy diet even when they are not at school.

So, let’s have a look into it since we believe this could be a useful recommendation for parents anywhere in Europe and beyond.

The school menus have been created after consulting experts in the field

Pupils in Prato can look forward to a complete meal every lunch break that is composed of a first course (pasta, rice, cereals), a second course (meat, fish, cheese, eggs, veggies or legumes), a side dish, Tuscan type bread and fresh fruit. The benefit of this meal composition is that it focuses on protein (essential for growing up) without losing the balance with other necessary elements.

But what about the other meals? Prato authorities advise parents to make sure that their kids do not miss breakfast because this sets off a domino chain of unfavourable consequences. Children will likely become hungry mid-morning and then overindulge in snacks at recess, which in turn will cause them to lose their appetite for lunch. Besides the lack of discipline and health consequences, this would also contribute to the accumulation of food waste.

Educators believe that a light breakfast is an optimal choice, so they advise parents to give their young ones milk or yoghurt with cereal or bread and jam and pack fruit for recess snacking.

As for dinner, nutritionists recommend cutting down on animal proteins in favour of plant-based ones, such as legumes and of, course, vegetables. In general, it is a good idea to provide variety, which is why the call is to consider the following weekly frequency when deciding on the second (main) course of a meal:

  • 3 - 4 portions of meat
  • 2 - 3 servings of fish
  • 2 - 3 portions of cheese
  • 2 servings of eggs
  • 0 - 1 portions of cured meats (severely limiting salami, sausage, mortadella)
  • Once or twice a week, the main course can be vegetarian (e.g. pasta or rice with legumes)

And just like they do in the Prato schools, you could opt for locally sourced, organic and fair-trade products while cutting down or completely avoiding sugary drinks and prepackaged high-calorie products.

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