Michael Gove, the former Education Secretary, unveiled new school dinner plans this week which aim to reduce the consumption of high-fat and high-sugar foods. However, Gove's new rules will only apply to new academies and free schools that are yet to open, which means that the majority of the UK's school children won't be affected by the changes.

Parenting on Female First

Parenting on Female First

Gove's new rules will completely ban chocolates and sweets from canteens and tuck shops, which is a desirable move towards a healthier diet for our children. However, the guidelines only restrict the amount of deep-fried, battered and breadcrumb-coated foods to two portions per week, and the rules are the same for pastry-based dishes. This means that four days a week, children can still opt for the high-calorie, high-fat chicken nuggets or sausage roll type of meal.

A balanced, nutritional diet is essential for keeping children healthy. School dinners, which are eaten by just under half of school children, account for almost a quarter of a child's food each week. As such, schools should work towards providing children with a variety of healthy foods from different food groups.

Keir McDonald MBE, head of EduCare, is an expert on issues related to children's health and food safety and offers his advice on your child’s diet.

The new guidelines show that the government is aware that food standards need to be changed. However, we are still a long way off a healthy diet for many of our children.

UK schools and the UK government need to move away from deep-fried, battered, breadcrumb-coated and pastry-based foods altogether. These foods need to be replaced with healthy alternatives, including rice, lentils and pulses, along with fruits and vegetables. Children need to be introduced to healthy foods and taught how to cook them, instead of relying on quick, high-fat foods such as chips and pasties.

Increasing our children's fruit and vegetable consumption is vital for their health, growth and development. Schools are the bedrock of learning, and healthy eating habits need to be taught from a young age. We need to reach a place where children aren’t normalised into thinking that battered, deep-fried foods and pastries four times a week at lunchtime alone is an acceptable diet.

What I might say, however, is that the school dinners debate is getting the publicity it deserves. As long as parents, schools and politicians are all involved in the debate, we will continue moving, albeit slowly, towards healthier school dinners for our children.

The impact the changes will have on a child's diet and how parents can monitor the school dinners.

The Department for Education has said that the new guidelines have had a positive impact. The new regulations have been effective in providing children with the energy and nutrients that they need, have resulted in an increase in the consumption of vegetables for secondary school pupils, and have been popular with school cooks during the trials.

A cut down on fatty and sugary foods can only have a positive impact on a child's diet. It is important for schools to start improving the diet of the younger generation, and to help them to learn about a healthy diet. Eating healthy foods will result in many benefits for children, including helping brain development, reducing health problems and supporting physical development.

It is really important for parents to monitor what their children are being served up for their school lunches. Parents can ask schools for a weekly or monthly menu so that they can be aware of what foods their child is eating during the day. This way, parents will be informed and better able to plan meals at home to ensure their child is eating a balanced diet. For this to be successful, parents and schools need to work together. If parents are concerned about any of the foods on the menu, they can discuss this with the school and hopefully find an alternative.

For more information visit: www.educare.co.uk

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk