Health for humans, animals & plants

Proper nutrition for any age

Eating right from the start!

A balanced diet and sufficient exercise are the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle. To anchor this knowledge at an early age, the project"Eating right from the start!" project was initiated.

Health promotion during pregnancy & breastfeeding and for children up to the age of 10.

A healthy lifestyle begins in the womb. Even the mother's preferred eating habits during pregnancy can shape the children's later eating habits and taste preferences throughout their lives. Nutritional deficiencies acquired during pregnancy and up to the end of the second year of life are very difficult to make up for later in life.

To promote a balanced diet adapted to the needs and as a practical guide to a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy and breastfeeding, we launched the program"Richtig essen von Anfang an!" (Eating right from the start!) in cooperation with the umbrella organization of Austrian social insurance carriers and the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK).

Eating right during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Proper nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding is important to ensure the supply of energy and nutrients for the growth and development of the baby and to provide the mother with all that she herself needs.

Important nutrients are delivered to the baby through breast milk, and depending on what the nursing mother consumes, the taste of breast milk also changes. The mother's diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding can also help influence the baby's preferences for certain tastes.

Calorie requirements during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Pregnant women have increased calorie needs, but still don't need to eat for two! It is not until the 13th week of pregnancy that calorie needs increase, which can be met by an additional small snack (1 extra portion of cereal products, 1 extra portion of fruit/vegetables and 1 extra portion of dairy products). From the 28th week of pregnancy, the mother needs a little more. Thus, 1 extra portion of vegetable oil is recommended, which can also be offered in the form of nuts and seeds. The additional need from the 28th week of pregnancy can be covered by another additional small snack or by a larger meal. During breastfeeding, the mother needs the same number of calories as is recommended at the end of pregnancy - but only as long as exclusive breastfeeding is taking place.

Vitamins and minerals during pregnancy and breastfeeding

The need for vitamins (vitamins of the B group - vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, folate, niacin - and the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E) and minerals (iron, zinc, iodine, phosphorus and magnesium) increases more than the energy requirement during pregnancy and breastfeeding. To ensure that mother and child are well nourished, it is important to have a proper and varied selection of foods with a high content of vitamins, minerals and other protective substances. Therefore, the quality of food plays a special role.

Fluid intake during pregnancy and lactation

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, it is also important to ensure adequate fluid intake. During pregnancy, at least 1.5 liters of drinking water or non-alcoholic and low-energy drinks should be consumed. From the breastfeeding period onwards, an extra portion is added.

Recommendations for a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy and breastfeeding

As a precaution, the consumption of stimulants such as caffeinated beverages should be limited. During pregnancy, stimulants such as alcohol and cigarettes should be completely avoided. To avoid excessive weight gain during pregnancy, mothers should not only eat fewer pastries and sweets, but also take more regular exercise. Regular exercise during pregnancy can have positive effects on both mother and child. For example, daily exercise of 30 minutes in the form of walking, Nordic walking, cycling and water aerobics is recommended. High-intensity or excessive sports, on the other hand, should be avoided.

In order to inform pregnant and breastfeeding women about the current dietary recommendations and about the right choice of food during pregnancy and breastfeeding, "The Austrian Food Pyramid for Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women" was developed. Here you will also find information about what else should be avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Further information:

Proper food for infants and young children

The foundation for healthy eating habits is laid during pregnancy in the womb and in early childhood: Nutritional deficits acquired during pregnancy and up to the end of the second year of life are very difficult to make up for later in life.

Supplemental food recommendations

As part of the program"Eating right from the start!" program, the "Austrian recommendations for complementary foods" and the "Recommendations for the nutrition of one to three year old children" and recommendations for the nutrition of four to ten year old children were developed together with experts in the field of nutrition and child health. Thus, for the first time, uniform information based on the current state of science is available on the introduction of solid food (complementary feeding) and on the nutrition of infants and children from four to ten years of age. The recommendations in detail can be found on the website of the program"Richtig essen von Anfang an!" website.

The new recommendations primarily take into account the infant's individual stage of development and allow parents to respond to their child's needs.

Age at the introduction of complementary feeding

In the first months of life, a baby is well provided for with breastfeeding or infant formula (pre-feeding), but later the baby needs more. The introduction of solid foods (complementary foods) should begin between the beginning of the 5th month of life (17th week) and the end of the 6th month of life (26th week), depending on the infant's individual stage of development. However, breast milk and infant formula remain an important source of nutrients after this time.

Supplemental feeding recommendations for gruel sequence.

There is no order in introducing complementary foods, but it is important that it is done slowly and step by step. In the beginning, readily available sources of iron and zinc, such as meat and cereals, are important for optimal nutrition.

Recommendations for complementary feeding are regularly scientifically reviewed and adapted. Whereas a few years ago the administration of allergenic foods was discouraged, this principle has long since ceased to apply. Avoiding allergenic foods has no preventive effect. On the contrary, there is evidence that fish consumption in the first year of life has a protective effect on the development of allergic diseases. Parents are free to decide when to offer their children complementary foods, whether in the morning, at lunchtime or in the evening.

Recommendations for the intake of liquids with complementary food

No additional drinks are necessary during exclusive breastfeeding. If complementary feeding is started, fluids can be offered as needed. However, after 10 months of age, a child needs regular fluids in the form of beverages, ideally drinking water.

There are foods that are not suitable for infants. Salt, sugar, honey and sweeteners should be avoided - this applies especially to drinks. Infants and toddlers should also not eat whole or coarsely chopped nuts and peanuts: These can be inhaled and get into the lungs. Finely grated and mixed with porridge, they do not pose a problem. You should also avoid fatty predatory fish such as tuna, swordfish, halibut, pike, butterfish, king mackerel - they are most likely to be contaminated with heavy metals. Char, salmon and trout are good choices.

With our online tool "Food under the magnifying glass" you can compare the nutrient content, especially the sugar and salt content, in infant and toddler products, squash.

Learning to eat through imitation

Infants are naturally critical of new foods. It is important that a child not be forced to eat. Rather, parents should offer new foods several times and be a good role model themselves. Children learn by imitation. The parents' eating behavior shapes the child's eating behavior.

Further information on proper nutrition for children up to the age of 10 can be found here.

Eating right at school

Checklist for healthy school catering

Children and young people spend a lot of time at school. The school environment is a place of learning and social interaction. Increasingly, not only snacks are eaten together, but also lunch. Health-promoting school catering helps students to eat healthily and to cope well with everyday school life.

As part of the program "Eating right from the start!" program, a tool has been developed for schools and their maintainers that can provide assistance in designing school catering: the "Checklist for SchoolCatering".

The checklist can be used for self-assessment and provide an overview of which areas of health-promoting school catering are already being met and where there is still room for improvement. A detailed accompanying document with numerous in-depth information, tips and links also provides further support for implementation. Both documents are intended to support not only school owners but also all other persons who play a role in the design of school communal catering (e.g. school principals, educators, parents/guardians, caterers).

The "Checklist for School Catering" was created by experts in the field of community catering or nutrition. It was unanimously approved by the National Nutrition Commission (NEK) in June 2019.

Guideline school buffet for healthy school catering

The"Guideline School Buffet" contains nutritional recommendations for a health-promoting food and beverage offer at Austrian school buffets and was developed by experts in the field of nutrition and public health, including our experts, with the involvement of the affected transport circles and the national nutrition commission. The "Guideline School Buffet" was published in 2011 by the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK).

The guideline contains recommendations for eleven product groups, such as beverages and baked goods, as well as tips for their implementation. In the composition of the shopping basket, quantity ratios as well as the presentation of the products are essential. No prohibitions were imposed; for example, sweets and pastries are also permitted at the school buffet, but in smaller quantities. Health-promoting goods should be presented in the foreground to make them visible to students.

Our school buffet and guideline school buffet

"Our School Buffet" is an Austria-wide initiative implemented by us, in cooperation with the BMSGPK, to improve break time catering at schools. The initiative is aimed at buffet operators who want to optimize their range of goods. They are supported in the implementation of a health-promoting food and beverage offer according to the "Guideline School Buffet" by mobile coaches on site, in a practical manner and with accompanying measures.

As part of the "Our School Buffet" initiative, buffet operations at more than 300 school locations were supported throughout Austria from 2011 to 2014. More than 250 locations fulfilled the majority of the recommendations of the "Guideline School Buffet" and could thus be awarded by the mobile team. Access to a health-promoting range of goods was made possible for more than 200,000 pupils.

Evaluation of "Our School Buffet

In 2012 and 2013, the initiative "Our School Buffet" was evaluated by our experts (in the field of integrative risk assessment, data and statistics) on an accompanying basis. The aim of the evaluation was to reflect on the quality of the roll-out of measures during planning and implementation and to improve it if necessary, as well as to review the success of the initiative. The evaluation found that the vast majority (93%) of buffet operators rated the initiative positively. The most important success factors cited were the professional support provided by the mobile coaches and the focus on the "buffet businesses" target group. In addition, the majority of buffet operators stated that a school buffet that complies with the recommendations of the "Guideline School Buffet" is feasible from an economic point of view in the long term. The successful networking of the buffet operators among each other in the context of annual conferences and regionally organized regulars' tables, as well as with other school-internal partners, was also considered successful.

The initiative continues...

Since mid-2014, mobile counseling has also been continued with regional cooperation partners in some federal states (Carinthia, Lower Austria and Styria). See website of the Ministry of Health:"Our school buffet".

The good choice for healthy school catering

Labeling systems under test

Following on from the success of the "Our School Buffet" initiative, a test was carried out to determine whether symbol labeling could draw greater attention to the healthy products on offer. A total of four labeling systems were examined more closely. Two of them, the "Consciously Choose" logo and the "Traffic Light System," made it into the practical test. The pilot project "Die gute Wahl" (The Good Choice), which was financed by preventive funds from the Federal Health Agency, tested whether schoolchildren use symbol labeling models to guide their food choices and thus make healthier choices. Furthermore, it was tested whether the labeling of products at the school buffet is practicable for the buffet operator in the daily work routine.

It has been shown that symbol labeling models are not effective without comprehensive information measures. For the introduction of a labeling system in the setting "school buffet", comprehensive adaptations of a symbol labeling as well as nutrition education and practice-oriented measures are necessary. A general implementation and increased adherence to existing and established guidelines (such as "Guideline School Buffet") is recommended. A health-promoting offer at the school buffet can thus make a significant contribution to the health of pupils.

Further details can be found in the final report.

Nutritional information

EU Project JANPA

JANPA - Joint Action on Nutrition and Physical Activity was an EU-wide project on healthy eating and physical activity for children and adolescents, co-funded by the third EU health program. The joint aim was to reduce or stop health problems resulting from overweight and obesity in children and adolescents by 2020. To this end, data and best practices from the 26 participating countries were shared and jointly evaluated. We participated in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection (BMSGPK) and implemented measures of the work packages "Nutritional Information" and "Early Intervention Measures".

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 3 children aged 6 to 9 is overweight or obese (obese). Despite numerous initiatives at regional, national and international levels, the numbers of overweight and obese (obesity) are steadily increasing, especially at a young age. Poor nutrition from birth (even in the womb) and lack of exercise are factors that contribute to the development of overweight and obesity. In general, overweight and obesity can promote secondary diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, etc.

Within the EU, the proportion of overweight children and adolescents is not only a worrying problem, but also an economic burden. Up to seven percent of the health budget is spent annually on secondary diseases of obesity. To prevent health problems caused by excessive body weight, an EU-wide project on nutrition and physical activity - Joint Action on Nutrition and Physical Activity ( JANPA)- was implemented from September 2015 to November 2017. The project identified the following priorities:

  • Assessing financial consequences of overweight and obesity.
  • Improving the implementation of policies to promote healthy diets and physical activity
  • Promoting the use of nutrition information
  • Contributing to a healthier school environment

JANPA work package - nutritional information

The Nutrition Information work package collected data on labeling and monitoring of nutrition information or food optimization in the participating countries. In addition, the extent to which nutrition information is used or understood by different stakeholders was surveyed.

As part of a pilot project in Austria, the nutritional information of two food product groups (soft drinks & breakfast cereals) was collected, evaluated and analyzed. With the help of these data, a picture of the situation on the Austrian market could be drawn. Together with data from other countries participating in the pilot project, this enabled a comparison at European level.

JANPA Work Package - Early Intervention Measures

The focus of the work package "Early Childhood Intervention Measures" was to identify effective strategies to promote healthy nutrition and physical activity in children. The focus was on pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and families with young children as the target population. Particular attention was paid to the transferability of interventions and consideration of social equity. Best practice models for early intervention measures were collected and analyzed from the participating countries. In Austria, the following models were evaluated as models of good practice:

JANPA - Key learning experiences

In the course of the project, a cost model was developed which is available to all European countries. This model is to be applied in cooperation with prevention projects of the OECD in order to be able to better estimate (consequential) costs arising from overweight/obesity in childhood.

In order to monitor the composition of food (in terms of its sugar, salt, fat and energy content), data will be collected in other European countries. These data should serve as a realistic target for reformulation measures and allow a comparison or effects of implemented strategies.

JANPA has also identified criteria to facilitate the transferability of overweight and obesity reduction programs.

A specially developed online database and toolbox will facilitate the exchange of experience between experts.

Food under the magnifying glass

In the course of the pilot project, the Center for Nutrition and Prevention set up a nutrient database based on an international model, in particular with product groups relevant for children, and realized it in our project"Food under the magnifying glass" (in short: LeLu). In the"LeLu" project - co-funded by the "Joint Health Targets from the Framework Pharma Contract" funds - data on product categories that are specifically targeted at children have been collected and evaluated by our Center for Nutrition and Prevention since fall 2017. The results are intended to make nutritional values comparable and to stimulate product reformulations (e.g., reduction of salt, sugar, fat) by food companies. In addition, the results are intended to help parents and caregivers compare foods and make healthier and more informed purchasing decisions. More information can also be found in the Nutrient Monitoring Report 2017-2021.

Austrian nutritional profile

Children are regularly exposed to advertisements for foods and beverages that are excessive in energy, fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS). Marketing such foods to children can, for example, have negative effects at an early age by encouraging the development of preferences for certain "unhealthy" foods, taste preferences, and dietary habits, thus contributing to the development of obesity at an early age.

To guide the promotion of foods high in energy, fat, sugar or salt to children before, during and after children's programs, an "Austrian Nutrient Profile for the Guidance of Food Advertising to Children in Audiovisual Media" was developed.

The Austrian Nutrient Profile is based on the "Nutrient Profile Model"ofthe World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO model was adapted to Austrian conditions. Among other things, the Austrian model was adapted to national recommendations (such as nutritional recommendations for children aged 4 to 10) and to the Austrian product range and takes into account the EU "Pledge Nutrition Criteria White Paper".

The Austrian Nutritional Profile was developed as part of the health promotion program "Richtig essen von Anfang an!" (Eating right from the start!) and discussed and agreed upon by experts in the National Nutrition Commission.

The recommendation of the National Nutrition Commission on the guidance of food advertising to children in audiovisual media is intended as an aid for those who work with this topic or design advertising. The recommendation is intended to provide support in assuming the great responsibility of protecting children's health.

EU School Program for Milk, Fruit & Vegetables

To promote healthy eating habits in children

Healthy snack for children

Fruits and vegetables are healthy - most children know that. But other foods are often hidden in the snack box. To help children and young people eat a healthy snack more often, there is the EU School Program for Milk, Fruit and Vegetables. On the one hand, this promotes the distribution of fruit, vegetables, milk and dairy products at childcare facilities and schools throughout Europe. On the other hand, schoolchildren can take part in tastings. They also learn more about the variety, manufacture and production of these foods during field trips to a farm, and the acquisition of raised beds, a new measure of the EU program, is intended to deepen this knowledge. By participating in the EU school program, all children benefit equally, as the subsidized food is cheaper. For educators, there are also teaching materials that offer support in everyday school life.

Under our direction, teaching materials and videos were created with funding from the European Union on behalf of Agrarmarkt Austria.

The EU School Program is supported by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism, the Federal Ministry of Health, Social Affairs, Care and Consumer Protection and the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.

Professional quiz for children

Can you make your own butter? Which fruit grows on trees?

Not all children can answer these questions easily. That's why quiz questions on the topics of milk, fruit and vegetables have been compiled as part of the EU Schools Program for the 2019/2020 school year. Children between the ages of 6 and 10 can thus acquire more knowledge about agricultural products, the environment or ingredients. Divided into two areas (milk and fruit/vegetables), 20 questions are available in different categories.

The quiz questions are available for download as a PDF version or can be answered online (as a desktop version).

Experiments for children

Why does a grated apple turn brown? How is cream cheese made?

In the 2019/2020 school year, ten different "Experiments for the classroom" have been prepared around the topics of milk, fruit and vegetables.

In addition to the necessary materials, the instructions include the exact steps for carrying out the experiments and interesting facts behind the effects that can be observed. In addition, there are videos on the experiments that can be used for demonstration in the classroom - either in advance as instructions or afterwards as a success check. A research protocol helps the young researchers to formulate hypotheses independently. The learning effect can be checked by means of a set of questions on the respective experiments (knowledge check as PDF for download or online).

The teaching materials for the experiments are available for download as a PDF version or can be answered online (as a desktop version). The teaching materials complement already established product supplies in school institutions participating in the EU school program.

Healthy eating makes school - videos for children

In the 2017/2018 school year, the program produced seven videos, among others: The five animated videos provide tips and information on the topics of milk, fruit and vegetables in an easy-to-understand way. The animations can also be viewed with subtitles in German, English, Bosnian-Serbian-Croatian and Arabic. In two other videos, children and nutrition experts deal with questions and answers about the aforementioned foods and recommendations about them. The videos are aimed directly at children on the one hand, but also at parents and teaching staff on the other.

Last updated: 21.02.2022

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