07/15/13 Suggestions and Observations of Animal Friends on the Module Living Healthy from the Health Education Curriculum
We consider it positive that the Health education curriculum offers guidelines for a healthy and balanced diet and advises students to care for their health. With this letter we want to suggest a way to improve certain parts of the Curriculum to include correct and comprehensive information on existing diets. In the module Living healthy from the Health education curriculum, in the section which refers to proper diet, it is suggested to children that they should eat fish and other meat, and there is no information that, besides the standard diet, there are other diets like the vegetarian and vegan diets. This information is important since some children have been on some of the abovementioned diets since kindergarten age, and so it is an everyday, regular diet for them. Also, it is important that all children know that, besides a diet which includes animal based ingredients, there are other, nutritionally healthy and balanced diets, and that among their peers there are those who do not eat meat, fish and/or other animal based foods.
We should not ignore the fact that there are children and adults who cannot consume some or all animal based ingredients for health reasons, such as allergies. The number of people is increasing whose diet is largely vegetarian or vegan, and who rarely consume animal based ingredients, and children should be informed about these facts.
According to the latest public opinion research, as many as 86 per cent of Croatian citizens support vegetarianism, and almost 30 per cent stated that they could become vegetarians themselves. More than 160,000 Croatian citizens already practice a vegetarian diet, so the Health education curriculum should not ignore and discriminate children and adults who are vegetarians and vegans. In their education, children should have the right to information on all forms of diet, whereby it is an important fact that other diets are not alternative, but a usual, everyday and lifelong diet for a big number of people, a number which is increasing daily.
Healthy and balanced vegetarian and vegan diets for children and adults are supported by scientifically based information. The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada have made a very detailed and comprehensive study (last update was in July 2009), which has the position that "well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence." Furthermore, the study states that "appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases." World renowned pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock in his book Baby and Child Care recommends vegan diets as completely acceptable for the health of a child.
In the module Living healthy from the Health education curriculum we want to turn your attention and refer you to the need to change the following parts of the Curriculum:
- Elementary school (5th grade) – page 16: in content B (Proper nutrition) add to Outcomes: "explain that some people do not eat fish and other meat"
- Elementary school (6th grade) – page 19: in content B (Proper nutrition) add to Outcomes: "explain that some people do not eat fish and other meat"
- Elementary school (8th grade) – page 24: in content A (Proper nutrition) add to Outcomes: "give explanation and examples of a balanced vegetarian and vegan diet"
- Secondary school (1st grade) – page 28: in content A (Proper nutrition) add to Outcomes: "give explanation and examples of a balanced vegetarian and vegan diet"
- Secondary school (2nd grade) – page 31: in content A (Proper nutrition) add to Outcomes: "give explanation and examples of a balanced vegetarian and vegan diet"
- Secondary school (3rd grade) – page 34: in content A (Proper nutrition) add to Outcomes: "list health benefits of a balanced vegetarian and vegan diet"
In Work materials and workshops for implementing Health education curriculum in homeroom class we want to make observations concerning the following content from the module Living healthy:
- - for 1st grade of elementary school ("Proper nutrition pyramid and food hygiene") the proper nutrition pyramid is presented in which meat is represented, and teachers ask the children "Do you eat meat and fish? (Recommendation: at least one a week a fish meal.)" In this way eating fish and meat as mandatory and unavoidable components of a healthy diet are imposed on children who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet at home. We think that the question should be omitted or paraphrased to say: "If you eat meat and fish, do you eat a fish meal at least once a week?"
- - for 2nd grade of elementary school ("Importance of the first morning meal and snack") among recommendations for proper morning meals are meals which include cow's milk and dairy, eggs, honey and meat, but there are no examples for children on a vegan diet. We think that this could be corrected by adding information that children who do not eat milk and dairy can have cereals for breakfast and drink cocoa with plant milk (oat, rice, soy, almond milk, etc.).
- - for 5th grade of elementary school ("Independent preparation of simple snacks/meals for the young") in examples of properly selected ingredients for the first morning meal students should be informed that, besides cow's milk, children can also use plant milks and yoghurts (oat, rice, soy, almond milk, etc.).
- - for 6th grade of elementary school ("Making a menu according to seasons – proper nutrition and seasonal foods of the region") in Annex 2 (Example of a spring menu for the continental region and Example of a summer menu for Mediterranean diet) meals made with fish, meat and other animal based ingredients are listed. We think that examples of plant based ingredients which can be used in those menus should be listed, for students who do not consume animal based ingredients.
- - for 3rd grade of secondary school ("Proper diet for intensified mind and body efforts") a proper nutrition pyramid is quoted, and in table 1 ("Frequency of consumption of individual food groups") food groups and the frequency of their consumption are listed – whereby it is suggested to students that e.g. fish should be consumed 1-2 times a week, and milk and dairy every day. In this statement students on a vegan diet are discriminated, others are informed that it is necessary to consume fish and dairy for a healthy diet, which is not correct. We think that in those recommendations the remark "except for students on vegetarian and vegan diet" should be added to give students the correct information.
In the presentation "Nutrition styles and habits" we also consider it necessary to mention that some people eat a healthy diet, and they do not eat fish and other meat and animal based ingredients, and it is necessary to mention the position of the American Dietetic Association that a "well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence."
In the work sheets "My nutrition styles and habits" in work sheet 5 "colorful sandwiches," "healthy pancakes" and "yellow soup" with meat and other animal based ingredients are recommended. We think that in the abovementioned meals plant based ingredients should be listed, which could be used by students who are on a vegetarian or vegan diet.