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Study shows 40% of Maltese schoolchildren are obese or overweight

New dietary guidelines launched

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

New children's dietary guidelines were launched on Thursday amid worrying studies which show a whopping 40 per cent of all children in schools across Malta are obese or overweight.

The dietary guidelines focus on recipes and on portion control, and encourage students to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.

“This can be carried out in one session, or in several sessions of at least 10 minutes each,” health promotion and disease prevention director Paula Vassallo said.

Children's sedentary time watching TV or playing with mobile phones and tablets should be reduced to less than two hours a day.

The guidelines are based on factors such as age, gender weight and height as well as the child’s activity levels.

“In general, boys have a higher intake from foods than girls, and older children need more energy than younger ones,” Dr Vassallo said.

The guidelines say that:

  • Children should have 3-5 servings of vegetables per day;
  • They should have 2-3 servings of milk and milk products every day;
  • Children should be encouraged to read food labels and then choose food products that are low in fats, sugars and salts;
  • Portion sizes should increase as children grow older;
  • Family dinners should be planned a week ahead.

The guide was based on the Dietary Guidelines for Maltese adults, which was published two years ago, she added.

A study, which was carried out across all State, Church and independent schools across the country, found that 40 per cent of school children between three years old and 16 years old were overweight for their age.

The peak age for overweight students was five to eight years old, the study found.

It was the first time that such a study was carried out, superintendent for public health Charmaine Gauci explained, adding that studies before had always targeted particular age cohorts.

The results of the study were announced during a press conference outlining new dietary guidelines for children.

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