Early nutrition education: Key to improving children’s eating behavior

Teaching young schoolkids the value of eating vegetables is a key factor in promoting growth and wellness

24 November 2023, Manila, Philippines – With the observance of National Children’s Month this November, MAGGI emphasizes the importance of encouraging children to eat a more balanced diet to promote healthy growth. In the Philippines, the persistence of stunting and malnourishment in many Filipino schoolchildren between the ages of 5 and 10 years old 1 indicates the need for continued education on proper nutrition of both students and their caregivers.

“Teaching schoolchildren at an early age about the importance of a balanced diet aims to promote the formation of healthy eating habits and other lifelong behaviors that improve their nutritional status and overall wellness,” said Rosalyn Simba, Business Executive Officer – Food and Dairy Culinary Business Unit at Nestlé Philippines. “Motivating young students to establish good eating practices can lay the foundation for a healthy Filipino population in the future.”

Changing attitudes and behaviors through nutrition education in schools

Research shows that nutrition education in schools is effective in changing unhealthy attitudes towards food. In 2017, DOST-FNRI, supported by Nestlé Philippines, undertook a school-based food and nutrition intervention called Forging Public-Industry-Society Alliance (PISO for Healthier Filipino Schoolchildren). This comprehensive one-year program conducted lunch feeding of underweight school children and enhanced training on nutrition concepts among targeted school children and their mothers or caregivers.

According to the monitoring and evaluation report of PISO for Healthier Filipino Schoolchildren, mean scores on knowledge, attitudes and behavior towards nutrition improved after approximately 60 hours of nutrition lessons among Grade 2 and 3 students, while a similar trend was also observed among the children’s mothers and caregivers after they attended nine sessions on topics that teach them how to differentiate nutritious and less nutritious foods, the impact of good eating habits and guides in eating a balanced diet.

As such, increasing vegetable and fruit consumption among students will play a vital role in reaching their physiological and cognitive development potential. Below are top three suggestions to instill healthy eating habits in young children.

 Include vegetable-based dishes in the daily meal plan. The Pinggang Pinoy guide of the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) recommends at least half a cup of vegetables and one medium serving of fruits daily to meet the recommended allowance for essential micro- and macronutrients among children aged 7-12 years.
 Elevate vegetable dishes into flavorful culinary creations that children will enjoy. To help transform vegetables into magical dishes, MAGGI offers many recipe ideas on its website, as well as other cooking tips in its Sarap Sustansiya Kusinaskwela modules.

 Variety is key. According to the DOST-FNRI Nutritional Guidelines for Filipinos, eating a ‘colorful plate’ containing a variety of foods and using an assortment of sources for the different food groups will help ensure the body gets adequate levels of the nutrients it needs to maintain good health.

Public high school students embrace healthy cooking and eating

As part of the MAGGI Sarap Sustansya Advocacy, MAGGI has partnered with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Nestlé Wellness Campus (NWC) to help impart these nutrition concepts through the ongoing Sarap Sustansya Inter-School Cooking Competition. Open to public schools that have implemented the DepEd Gulayan sa Paaralan program, this cooking competition emphasizes the importance of vegetable-based dishes in the daily menu and teaches healthy cooking as an essential life skill. Under this nationwide competition, each school will field a team comprised of a student, teacher and parent who will cook a balanced meal for a family of four. Given a budget of 400 pesos, the team must make use of vegetables harvested from their Gulayan sa Paaralan in their recipe.

“The MAGGI Sarap Sustansya Advocacy aims to support nutrition education in homes, schools and communities; and to help children enjoy the benefits of a vegetable-rich diet through solutions and services that bring out the flavor and goodness of vegetables in everyday dishes”, said Simba. “Sarap Sustansya Inter-School Cooking Competition is a way for us to teach these positive skills in a fun and engaging manner.”

As the Filipinos’ trusted partner in the kitchen, where good eating habits begin, MAGGI is committed to help improve children’s access to tasty and balanced meals everyday through the MAGGI Sarap Sustansya Advocacy. Through its products, recipe services and initiatives to upskill students, families and communities in Sarap Sustansya cooking, MAGGI empowers homecooks of all ages to prepare budget-friendly, simple, delicious and nutritious dishes every day.


1 Stunting and underweight in school children are still public health problems with prevalences of 24.9 percent and 25.5 percent respectively. Overweight and obesity are also growing problems for this age group with a prevalence of 10.4%. – 2018-2019 Expanded National Nutrition Survey of the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) (FNRIDOST, 2022).


About Cor

I am a single mom of all boys. I love cars, food, traveling and anything in between.