The Department of Human Nutrition at the College of Health Sciences, a member of QU-Health at Qatar University (QU), organised the Smart Start programme throughout the spring semester.
Smart Start is a nutrition education programme that promotes healthy lifestyle and targets schoolchildren in Qatar.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has shifted dietary and lifestyle habits of many families. The poor diet quality and sedentary lifestyle acquired may affect the immune system and the disease susceptibility. Therefore, the programme’s purpose was to emphasise the importance of kids' nutrition, introduce parents to the importance of applying healthy eating habits and active lifestyle to their children's daily routine, strategies to boost their immunity and staying active during the pandemic and introduce children to heathy eating," QU said in a statement.
The series of virtual webinars targeted parents, schoolteachers and administrators in several public and private schools in Qatar. In addition, children enjoyed numerous activities and watched an animated video about food groups and healthy eating habits virtually with their schoolteachers.
Many school staff, parents and children from different schools attended the webinar. The symposium discussed several main areas: foods that support the immune system and the importance of adopting a healthy and active lifestyle to strengthen the immune system. Many factors can weaken the immune system such as an incomplete diet, an unorganised sleep pattern, exposure to pollution and lack of fresh air or sunlight.
The immune system protects the human body from pathogenic microbes such as bacteria and viruses. Learning about healthy eating habits, eat the correct diet and the development of a strong immune system that begins at a young age is crucial to deter health risks related to various diseases and their causes, including viruses.
Teaching assistants at the Department of Human Nutrition emphasised the importance of including all food groups in the meal to boost immunity. The webinar provided many tips to schedule meals, prepare lunch boxes, engage daily fun activities and offered specialised
strategies designed to deal with picky eaters.
Moreover, virtual fun activities for kids were included in the programme such as 'my plate' activities, matching and guessing games and solving a maze.
Parents said the webinar was "very informative. It emphasised the importance of nutrition in boosting immunity during the pandemic and gave us new ideas to incorporate healthy eating habits. Our kids enjoyed the activities with their schoolteachers, learned about different food groups and the importance of eating healthy and being active."