Affiliations: Department of Health Sciences, College of Natural and Health Sciences, Zayed University, UAE
Corresponding author: Malin Garemo, Department of Health Sciences, Zayed University, PO Box 144534, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Tel.: +971 2 5993111; Fax: +971 2 4434847; E-mails: [email protected], [email protected].
Abstract: BACKGROUND:There is a high rate of nutritional risk factors and non-communicable diseases among children in the Middle Eastern countries. As children who are attending nurseries or school are expected to consume a substantial part of their daily intake there, it’s important that the food provided in educational settings is nutritious which can be achieved with the support from nutrition guidelines. OBJECTIVE:The aim of this review was to report on current food and nutrition guidelines for children in nurseries or schools within the Middle Eastern countries. METHODS:An electronic search was done on governmental webpages, PubMed, Google Scholar, and WHO using specified keywords related to children, guidelines, nutrition and education. The search was conducted for relevant documents in both English and Arabic, without a set timeframe. RESULTS:Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia had national dietary guidelines for the public, mainly without age considerations. In educational settings, a majority of the countries had health and food safety guidelines. United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia had somewhat comprehensive nutrient or food-based guidelines for school settings, whereas most other countries had lists of permitted/non-permitted food. No countries had issued nutrient or food-based guidelines specific for nurseries. CONCLUSIONS:The findings highlight a shortcoming in guidelines on providing healthy and nutritious food in nurseries and schools in many Middle Eastern countries. As educational settings can serve as excellent health promotion arenas, guidelines could have the potential to support healthier eating habits among children, and thus contribute to improved health in the population.