Healthy Eating in International Schools

Catering award

Author: Chris Owen

Catering Manager, ACS Cobham


For many parents, memories of school lunches conjur up images of unappetising meals eaten in a chaotic dining hall. Furthermore, it is common to hear horror stories of students arriving at university ill- prepared, unable to even cook basic nutritional meals. At ACS, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Benefits of healthy eating

The benefits of healthy eating are wide-ranging; allowing optimal growth, high concentration levels at school, the maintenance of a healthy weight and the development of strong bones. Furthermore, research into the eating habits we develop as children has suggested that a healthy diet during the early years means we stand a good chance of carrying these habits throughout our lives.

At ACS Cobham, we encourage all our students to embrace healthy eating and by taking part in our cookery clubs, special events and competitions, students from all years learn about the importance of a balanced diet and feel confident in approaching us with their own meal ideas, suggestions and general feedback.

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This year in the ACS Cobham Boarding House, our new Residential Life Programme was implemented. Boarders can build up a record of personal achievement with a series of certified courses, seminars and awards they complete, including nutrition and cookery courses.

Menus at ACS Cobham

Our menus are designed to be nutritious, healthy and include good variety, meaning it is guaranteed there will always be something to satisfy each student. All of our menus are nutritionally examined to ensure that we are meeting all the students’ requirements.

Our kitchens run a field to fork system, ensuring we know exactly what the students eat and that they always have a good balance of all the things they require. We gained the Silver For Life Award from the Soil Association, a nationally recognized scheme, widely adopted by school caterers across the UK, pledging to serve sustainable and nutritionally valuable school meals.

We never buy in readymade food and everything is made from scratch, enabling us to control salt and sugar intake and ensure no additives and colours are used. We aim to use cooking methods which reduce the addition of fat and try to avoid frying and boiling to ensure that as many nutrients are retained during the cooking process. Fried food is kept to an absolute minimum.

A majority of our meat is organic and comes from a local farm and all our chicken and eggs are free range; the dining room has large salad and deli bar, and fruit salads are always available. Vegetables are grated or pureed into a large variety of dishes, and all white bread has at least 50 per cent wholemeal inside, including the pizza bases. Furthermore, we make our own natural yoghurt, and try to ensure our desserts are portioned to suit the sugar content, using healthier sugar alternatives such as honey where possible.

All drinks are low in sugar with minimal additives and we make sure that we have more water on display than any other drink. No sugar filled drinks such as coke and sports drinks are provided, and water and semi skimmed milk is available for free for all students at all times. We offer an incentive of a free whole fruit to every student who has a main meal or salad, and our Zummo machine, which cuts and juices oranges in front of students, consistently proves to be a real hit!

Award winning

Our efforts to ensure healthy eating by our students was recognised by our recent Eat Out Eat Well Gold Award from Surrey and Buckinghamshire County Council.  We are also one of only a handful of schools and restaurants to hold both the Eat Out Eat Well Gold Award and a Silver Food for Life Award from the Soil Association, demonstrating the team’s commitment to providing locally sourced, organic produce on our menus.

Our students with allergens are well catered for and we always offer gluten free and other allergen alternatives. We work closely with parents to make sure the information is available to them so they can make the right choices. All our menus also have a carbohydrate count so our diabetic students/parents can make sure they get the food they require.

As the well-known saying goes, “Eat well, live well, be well”, and we certainly ensure our students receive the highest quality healthy food to aid the crucial development stage of their lives.

Chris Owen

Catering Manager, ACS Cobham

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