As a new school year starts, the Department of Education has sternly warned school canteens about the no junk foods policy that had been in place for some time now. Schools should prioritize foods that contain a wide range of nutrients.

In order to promote a healthy diet and eating environment to learners, teaching and non-teaching personnel, DepEd issued guidelines on food and beverage choices in schools and in its offices. Under the said guidelines, foods and drinks have been categorized under green, yellow or red.

DepEd Releases New Policy on Canteen Food Choices 2017

For further understanding, the categories were explained through the recent “Policy and Guidelines on Healthy Food and Beverage Choices in Schools and in DepEd Offices” signed by Education Secretary Leonor Briones as DepEd Order No. 13, s. 2017.

Foods under the green category should always be available in canteens because they are the best choices for a healthy school canteen. Meanwhile, under the yellow category are foods that should be served carefully because they “contain some nutrients but also large amounts of saturated or transfats and/or sugar, and/or salt.” Red Category Foods should never be served in healthy school canteens because they are considered unhealthy.

Softdrinks, alcoholic drinks, sports drinks, flavored mineral water, energy drinks, sweetened water, powdered juice drinks and any product containing caffeine (for school canteens); processed fruit/vegetable juice with added sugar more than 20 grams of four teaspoons per serving, jelly, ice cream, ice drop, ice candies, cakes, donuts, sweet biscuits, pastries and other sweet bakery products are all included in the RED CATEGORY.

Candies, heavily salted snacks like chips, French fries, instant noodles, kikiam, fish balls, and fruits canned in heavy syrup are also under the red category and are prohibited.

Green Foods category include unsweetened milk, clean water and fresh buko water; brown rice or iron-fortified rice, corn, oatmeal and whole wheat bread; root crops like cassava and sweet potato, shell fish, lean meats, nuts, eggs, fresh fruits in season and green, leafy, and yellow vegetables. They should always be made available in school canteens.

Meanwhile, 100 percent fresh fruit juices; fried rice, biscuits, pancakes/waffles, champorado, pancit, arrozcaldo, sandwiches with butter, margarine, and mayonnaise and processed food such as meat, fish, hotdogs, sausage, burger patties, chicken nuggets, tocino, tapa, etc. are all included under the YELLOW CATEGORY. They can be served once or twice a week and only in small servings in school canteens.

According to DepEd, unhealthy food patterns and a sedentary lifestyle is a combination for an upward surge in overweight and obesity. Thus, schools should promote healthy eating habits by strictly following the guidelines.