Nicki Coomb getting her pupils' feedback on the new healthy menu served at the school cafeteria. Pix by HALIMATON SAADIAH SULAIMAN.
Healthy menu includes spaghetti primavera, Thai green chicken, lemon chicken, baked fish with vegetable broth and steamed vegetables. Pix by HALIMATON SAADIAH SULAIMAN

KUALA LUMPUR: How often do you hear a school canteen serving brown rice, steamed and grilled vegetables together with baked fish or grilled chicken?

Sounds too good to be true but this is a part of the school canteen menus introduced at Beaconhouse Newlands International School (BNIS), a new international school under Beaconhouse Group, to kickstart its initiative to drive the importance of good nutrition for its pupils.

BNIS Principal Nicki Coomb, who is taking the bold step towards better nutrition said the new menu will include more health-conscious options and reduce processed carbohydrates and fried food for its students.

“Having balanced, nutritious meals is often not prioritised here despite it being a vital component in maximising one’s cognitive performance and development. Pupils cannot learn effectively on a hungry stomach or with less than adequate nutrition in the food they consume.”

“A lack of proper nutrition puts children at risk of health issues such as obesity and undernutrition which can impact their health, growth and development.

“Understanding food and nutrition and the dual role they play as part of a balanced lifestyle is essential,” she added.

Nicky, who personally implemented the new cafeteria menu, cuts out processed carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice to 2-3 times a week and introduces more complex and fibrous carbohydrate options such as brown rice and roasted potatoes.

Fried food is limited to two options per day with more healthier options in the form of salads, sandwiches and fruits.

Food and drinks high in fat, sugar and salt are replaced with more varied and balanced choices in the form of cheese sandwiches, bread with fruit jam and sweet potato porridge.

“When I first started, there were many different types of menus. We discussed with the catering team first to set up the priorities towards healthier choices.

“We then looked for a chef and found one who can plan a diverse range of food. He has been to the United Kingdom and Scotland, so he has experience in the western lifestyle where what is served for breakfast is different from lunch and also for dinner evening.

“We also get feedback from the pupils through a survey on what they really like.

“They want pizza and there is nothing wrong with a pizza if it got vegetables and tomato sauce instead of ketchup which has higher level of salt, sugar and colouring.

While ice cream and cake is available as dessert options at BNIS, fruits and red bean soup are included as well to further balance the menu.

Nicki believes in impacting students with the right mindset on making the right choices on their food intake.

“Just like academic learning, making healthy food choices is a learned behaviour which can be easier adapted if introduced at a young age.

“Children have little influence or control over what they eat – we want to positively impact them early to shape their eating patterns and preferences later on in life.

“You can’t change this in a day but you have to keep going,” she added.

The implementation of healthier nutrition also includes compulsory physical education lessons and also revamping the cafeteria design to be more engaging to their students.

The cafeteria now boasts an array of colourful tables varied in shapes and designs, and chairs in assorted designs and heights catering to students from 3 to 17-year olds.

Regional Director of Beaconhouse Group Shah Jahanzeb said: “With the introduction of a more wholesome cafeteria menu and revamped space, we want to ensure our students are able to reach their potential in all aspects of their growth and learning.”

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