Amsterdam’s bold approach to children’s diet

Amsterdam: Sugary snacks and juice are banned in schools in the city.


Mirjam Bremer is at the vanguard of a revolution in how the city of Amsterdam approaches children’s diets and health.

As a principal at a school in the Dutch capital, she has spearheaded the implementation of the city-wide healthy weight programme for her pupils.

The radical programme adopted by Amsterdam’s municipal government in 2013 to reduce childhood obesity has had startling results, with a 12% drop in the child obesity rate in just three years.

In 2012, Amsterdam’s child obesity rate had stood at an alarming 21%.

The policy is not intended just to change things temporarily, it is hoped it will bring about a full-scale generational change in food culture.

“We want to educate the children as much as we can about healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle,” explains Ms Bremer.

The programme’s tough, interventionist approach would arguably raise eyebrows in Scotland and perhaps raise concerns of a nanny state.

It has refused sponsorship from fast food corporations such as Coca-Cola or McDonald’s, as an example.

At the schools level, it has taken the form of a strict regiment for pupils in which they are only allowed to bring water or milk to school – no juice of any kind – and even birthday treats are banned.

Most controversially for some parents, children in Amsterdam are weighed and measured every year and their progress tracked.

At her school, says Ms Bremer, sugary snacks are a complete no-go.

“There is no sugar at all in school,” she says. “They have a healthy lunch and healthy snack which contains water and fruit.

“They can have a sandwich but they’re brown, healthy sandwiches.”

She adds: “At first not a lot of parents were very enthusiastic about it,…

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