Newcastle Falcon Andy Saull believes the Something to Chew On initiative is giving youngsters real food for thought after paying a visit to one healthy school in the North East yesterday.
Saull and a host of other Falcons stars joined former England cricketer Graeme Swann to spread the word about Something to Chew On, Premiership Rugby's healthy eating campaign in association with BT Sport's The Supporters Club and Public Health England.
They combined forces with a band of Year Five students from Ryton-based Emmaville Primary School for a number of activities, including sandwich-making sessions and a tag rugby session in the afternoon.
Swann, who retired from cricket last year, was even taught how to tackle by Saull and co on the day – but the real message was combating obesity.
And though flanker Saull says finding the right balance between diet and exercise is tricky at first, his own healthy lifestyle made him the fit and healthy Falcon he is today.
"I was running around playing rugby since I was a little boy, as a kid I had so much energy and with the right food and right amount of exercise, any one would,” he said.
"Making the right choices can be a minefield to start off with but any type of exercise, just running around, can make a difference.
"You see obesity epidemics in countries such as America and we don't want our nation to go the same way, we've got a proud heritage in sport and we want to see it carry through to the next generation.
"And if we've inspired one or two kids at this school to think about what they put in their bodies, hopefully it can have a knock-on effect and we've helped.
"It's not about banning foods but learning about what different food groups do to your body. A few kids already knew more about it than us so I definitely think education is on the right track, and hopefully this initiative will have an impact.”
According to government figures over a fifth of 4-5 year olds, one third of children aged 10-11 years old and two thirds of adults are currently overweight or obese.
Something to Chew On aims to help counter this by not only improving children's understanding of healthy eating, but increasing their knowledge of food safety and engagement with sports they might not otherwise have the opportunity to take part in..
Children are given lessons in diet and health, food safety, consumer awareness, food preparation and cooking and also give the children one hour of rugby, fitness and body movement on the field to motivate children to be active. The project also aims to raise the awareness of healthy food practices in teachers.
Back-row Brian Tuilagi was another Falcons face to take part in the day – and he shared his own blueprint for healthy eating as top-flight rugby player.
"As rugby players we end up having breakfast straight out of bed, be it cereal or eggs, and then snacks at 11ish such as nutrition bars,” explained Tuilagi.
"There's a big meal at lunch followed by more snacks or protein shakes before dinner. Then for dinner we might have rice – I usually like a beef stir fry – so we're constantly refuelling and monitoring what we have in our body.
"It's not just how much you eat, you can eat a lot if you're burning it off with exercise and choosing the right foods.”
To find out more about Premiership Rugby's healthy eating programme Something to Chew On funded by The Supporters Club, BT Sport's charitable initiative, and Public Health England, go to premiershiprugby.com/SomethingToChewOn. The Supporters Club is inviting people to pledge their time this Christmas and beyond to charities and sports clubs via www.btsport.com/myextratime