Posts Tagged ‘ healthy eating ’

The Cafeteria Crisis: How to Make Fruits and Vegetables More Appealing

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

A recent Atlantic article reported that most kids in Los Angeles’ school system are not eating healthy lunches. On any given day, less than half of students took a vegetable from the school cafeteria’s lunch line and ate it. I’m not shocked by this statistic, but I wish the number of kids eating veggies were higher. Processed foods, which dominate many students’ diets, don’t have the nutrients they need to be healthy. Schools seem to care more about what the students want to eat than what’s best for them.  The L.A. school district has been and continues to adjust their cafeterias’ menu to fit what kids want to eat, moving away from their old healthy foods initiative. In the newest rendition of the school district’s menu, hamburgers are offered every day. Some might argue that kids, especially older kids, should know how to tell what’s healthy and what’s not and make the right decisions for themselves. If they want to eat junk food every day, that is their choice and we shouldn’t interfere. However, I think that the current system impairs kids’ ability to make the right food choices, and we should work to improve the situation. There are two changes that I believe would change the way that students eat their lunches:

  1. Make lunch periods longer. Many schools have inadequate lunch breaks. In order to encourage kids to eat salads instead of junk food, we need to give them the time to do so without feeling rushed. According to a 2013 poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 20 percent of students from kindergarten to fifth grade get only 15 minutes (or less!) for lunch. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that students get 20 minutes to sit down and eat their lunches, which doesn’t include the time it takes to walk to the cafeteria and wait in line for food.
  1. Add a nutrition section to home economics, health, or science class. Nearly all schools claim to have nutrition education, but at what age do students learn about nutrition — and to what extent do students learn beyond the food pyramid? I didn’t learn about nutrition until I was a sophomore in high school, and I don’t remember anything about the class except that we wrote in a food diary. The nutrition class should be a hands-on experience that helps students make informed food choices. Teachers should take their students to the cafeteria and teach them how to choose balanced meals in addition to lecturing in the classroom.

I hope that the Los Angeles school district reverts back to its old, healthier menu, and that other school districts follow in its footsteps. The cafeteria menu shouldn’t change; students’ attitudes should change, and we need to help make that happen. One out of every 3 kids is considered overweight or obese in the United States. Let’s work to reduce those numbers— starting with the way kids eat lunch.

Print out healthy on-the-go breakfast recipes and shop kids’ lunch boxes.

Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating
Sesame Street Lessons: Healthy Eating

Image via Shutterstock.

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Mrs. Obama: Stop Promoting Junk Food!

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

To mark the fourth anniversary of the Let’s Move! campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama is making the rounds to continue raising awareness of childhood obesity.

Tuesday morning, she made a major announcement that will impact the future of schools across the country. Mrs. Obama outlined new rules that will ban the promotion of sugary drinks and junk food in schools. The rules aren’t just limited to the cafeteria, either. Vending machines, posters, menu boards, and even scoreboards that feature unhealthy food and drinks will be phased out.

Companies spend $149 million a year marketing in schools, and 93 percent of that marketing is to promote beverages according to the USDA and reported by the Associated Press.

Companies will now have to start promoting their healthier options if they want to remain in schools. For example, Coca-Cola won’t be able to sponsor a high school football scoreboard if their logo for Coke is visible. Instead, Coca-Cola will have to use Dasani water or Diet Coke as an alternative.

“The idea here is simple — our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” the first lady said from the White House. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.”

There are some exceptions to the rules. Promotions regarding bake sales and other in-school fundraisers would be left up to the schools or states. Off-campus fundraisers, like a school night at a local fast food chain, would be allowed, but posters and flyers advertising the event would not be allowed in the school. Instead, an email would be sent to parents.

The proposed rules will first have to undergo a USDA-facilitation comment period. This will decide how long schools have to remove and replace current unhealthy promotions running on campuses. The rules are expected to take affect by the beginning of next school year.

Many companies have already started the transition, and the American Beverage Association is on board with the rule change. “Mrs. Obama’s efforts to continue to strengthen school wellness make sense for the well-being of our schoolchildren,” President and CEO Susan Neely said.

But helping kids make smarter choices doesn’t begin and end at school. Last fall, the campaign announced Sesame Workshop agreed to license some of their characters to the Produce Marketing Association to help healthier options appeal to children. Parents can also encourage their children to choose healthier options. Here are six easy ways to incorporate non-sugary drinks into your child’s routine.

Let’s Move! was launched in February 2010 to help fight the increasing rate of childhood obesity in America. The campaign encourages children to get active and make healthy eating choices. In the four years since the launch, new school lunch guidelines have been put in place and childhood obesity rates are beginning to fall. Large companies, government agencies, and local towns and counties have made an effort to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

Tell us: What do you think about these new rules? Do you agree that the marketing of junk food should be banned in schools?

Need more inspiration or help choosing healthier food options?? Download our free food substitutions guide!

Sesame Street Lessons: Limiting Sweets
Sesame Street Lessons: Limiting Sweets
Sesame Street Lessons: Limiting Sweets

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