A new initiative called IQ - Intelligent Cuisine - is ensuring that schools that do not have full catering facilities or designated lunch rooms can provide students with a hot breakfast and a range of hot and cold nutritious options for lunch.
Campbell Catering, which launched the healthy eating programme in Templeogue College, Dublin, yesterday, have described it as an "intelligent" solution to unhealthy eating habits in secondary schools.
The principal of Templeogue College, Kevin O'Brien, said there were many households where both parents were working and where the school day can often be extended into the evening time.
"It is becoming increasingly important that schools play their part in ensuring there is a proper nutritious offering to their students. We are very excited about IQ, and initial feedback from the boys has been very positive," he said.
IQ was first piloted in St Leo's College in Carlow in January and Templeogue is the second school in Ireland to have an IQ facility for students. Campbell catering plans to roll out the initiative to 10 more schools by the end of the year.
Leading nutritionist Paula Mee, who worked closely with Campbell Catering on the menu development, said IQ was not about making teenagers eat only carrots or fruit.
"The IQ menu offering has been designed to offer teenagers choice and healthier foods which are better for their skin, hair and nails as well as concentration levels and overall sports performance," she said.
"Our research found that many students did not have a breakfast and tended to go to a chipper or local shop at lunchtime," she added.
The IQ range of foods in smaller portions includes soup, fresh rolls, healthy breakfast bagels, daily rice dishes, baked potatoes with healthy fillings, low-fat yoghurt, smoothies, popcorn and low-fat crisps as well as a wide variety of fruit.
Information on healthy eating options is provided to students and new foods are regularly introduced to educate teenagers on the variety of interesting and healthy options available.
A voucher system is also available so parents can be sure their children spend their lunch money on a nutritious lunch. The catering company found that many students admitted skipping lunch or spending only a fraction of the lunch money provided by their parents.