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Coach Gabe: “Healthy eating is a skill that needs to be developed”

At the special educational needs school where I work in Swiss Cottage, we run a Health and Fitness module within PE for two of the older class groups to help promote a healthy lifestyle in and out of school. Exercise is a big part of the learning experience, including dance, aerobics and gym work. . Through links with Camden Sports Development, we were also fortunate enough to be able use the gym at the local leisure centre. Such trips helps the young people to become more comfortable accessing their community facilities and taking their learning from the school into the wider environment.

Healthy eating is a habit we also try to instill in our participants whenever possible. At school I often sit and have lunch with my young people to build a rapport with them outside of a PE setting and also I am able to advise them on healthy eating. I noticed one young man who was doing the Health and Fitness module never ate fruit and vegetables in my presence. I chatted to him, and if I prompted him and got them for him he’d eat some vegetables. Before long, if I prompt him, he’d go himself to get some vegetables and eat them.

The young man and I discussed how he might be able to remind himself to eat fruit and veg on the days I wasn’t there. I ended up creating a food diary for him to help monitor his food intake and to check he was eating the right amount of the right types of food. He’s since gone from eating no fruit and vegetables at school to having three or four of his five a day by the end of the school day.

To help support this young man outside of the school environment, I called his mother to explain about the food diary and asked her to encourage his new healthy eating habit. Initially, the young man’s mother was skeptical and said it was difficult as he didn’t like a lot of fruit or vegetables, but there has now been a marked and sustained improvement thanks to her encouragement. Hopefully, together, we have helped this young man to adopt healthier eating habits for life.