School-age children and teenagers
- The well-being of school-age children can be supported by regular mealtimes and smartly selected snacks, which include berries, vegetables, fruit, cereal products and low-fat dairy products.
- Sugary drinks, which are popular with young people, are harmful for both their dental and general health. The best drink for thirsty youngsters is tap water!
- A dose of 7.5 μg a day of a vitamin D supplement is recommended all year round for everyone aged 2 to 18 years. This is particularly important in phases of rapid bone growth.
- The reference energy requirement of girls aged 10-13 years is 2,055 kcal/day, and that of boys 2,340 kcal/day. The reference energy requirement of girls aged 14-17 years is 2,340 kcal/day, and that of boys 2,820 kcal/day.
School meals are important
Each school meal is an educational opportunity where children familiarise themselves with new ingredients and learn about tastes and structures, basic eating skills, and being together and talking about food. At Finnish schools and educational institutions, students are offered a free, versatile and balanced meal every day. The school lunch is the only hot meal of the day for some children, and they should thus be encouraged to eat it. School meals promote the pupils’ physical well-being and ability to study, but they also have an educational task. The emerging food sense of a child or a teenager means skills in thinking, versatile awareness and competence related to food. The food and drink culture is one area of life through which a young person who is becoming more independent may shape his or her identity. Even if the influence of friends on food choices increases in school age, children and teenagers need an adult who looks after their diet and makes sure that they eat versatile and regular meals.
Finnish National Board of Education has made a brochure about the school meal system in Finland. Read more about the school meal system (pdf).
When school-age children play sports and take exercise on their own initiative, this supports their well-being and promotes learning. Sports and exercise also have an important role in young people's social relationships.
Spending long stretches of time passively, for example sitting down, should be avoided. Children and teenagers should get at least one hour of exercise every day. This hour can also be divided into shorter times, for example 15 minutes of variable activities at a time. Physical activity should be versatile and include both moderate and strenuous exercise.
School age children also need to take exercise that strengthens their muscles and bones about three times a week. Suitable sports for this purpose include ball games and exercise that features jumping.
An athletic teenager
In the nutrition of an athletic teenager, regular meals and a sufficient intake of energy and nutrients are particularly important, as getting enough energy is the most significant factor for an athlete’s performance and recovery. The more muscular work an athletic teenager does, the more carbohydrates he or she needs as an energy source. A sporty teenager may also need more vitamins and minerals than others, however not multiple amounts. Whole grain cereals are a good source of carbohydrates as they contain essential vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium and iron. An athletic teenager can ensure a sufficient intake of protein by eating main meals put together following the plate model and snacks that include low-sugar yoghurt, quark or eggs.
National Nutrition council, 2017: Eating and learning together - recommendations for school meals