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Do away with chips, colas at schools: Experts

New Delhi: Burgers, chips and colas giving way to fruits, soups and salads in school canteens -- this is not only every mother`s dream but also health experts` suggestion to policy makers.

In view of the increasing incidences of obesity- related diseases among children, experts insist that policy makers should introduce stringent rules to make available healthier food in school canteens.

Moreover, a recent survey conducted by NGO HEAL Foundation found that over 75.5 per cent of school going children in the city would opt for healthy foods in canteen if a given a choice.

According to experts, burger, chips, samosas, patties, momos and colas should be replaced with fresh fruits, eggs, salads, rajmah-rice, dal, low salt soups, yoghurt and vegetables.

"Children spend most part of their time in school. The existing food options in the canteen should be modified to make them more suitable for children`s taste and at the same more nutritious," says Dr S K Wangnoo, senior consultant of President Delhi Diabetes Forum.

"Children should be taught to eat healthy food. Their preference for junk food is because they learn it from their surrounding which is both at home and school," says Wangnoo.

According to the survey, majority of students who eat in the canteen were willing to go for healthier food such as juices (77 per cent), whole wheat noodles or sandwiches (56 per cent) or flavoured milk (60 per cent), provided these options were available there.

"This survey was carried out in 20 schools in Delhi and NCR region among children belonging to the age group of 10 to 18 years. And nearly a quarter of the students consume food from school canteens at least twice a week," Swadeep Srivatave, principal consultant of Heal Foundation says.

Consumption of junk food can lead to various ailments like cancer, diabetes, heart problem, erectile dysfunction, depression and gall bladder diseases among others.

Dr A Laxmaiah, deputy director of National Institute of Nutrition, says, "Some of the gastrointestinal cancers can be attributed to obesity. Majority of obese children have some or the other cardiovascular problems and obesity is one of the main reasons for it."

Uday Foundation, an NGO for children`s welfare, has filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court calling for ban on sale of junk food and carbonated drinks in and around schools across the country.

"Parents should be blamed for obesity in children. The child imitates the eating habits he witnesses among his near and dear ones.

Moreover, most mothers go for shortcuts like maggi, burgers or sandwiches as breakfast for the child which is very wrong," says Dr Roma Kumar.