With over 30 percent of the country being obese, it has become increasingly more important to make sure our youth knows the significance of nutrition and good eating habits. As a whole, children have had decreased caloric intake when compared to their intake a decade ago. However, is that enough? Or are there other things we can do to make sure that they are on the right track?
Outside of home, children spend most of their time in school. Schools are known to not have the best choices when it comes to food for students. We are more accustomed to hearing about pizza or chicken nuggets being served at schools and not much about fruits and vegetables. There are some studies being done, however, to figure out how much of an impact schools can have on the food choices that their students make, and the results have been promising thus far.
In one study, researchers modified a lunch room to have the fresh fruit put in attractive bowls or tiered stands, salad served in see-through (to-go) containers, and a sign that read "Last Chance for Fruit" displayed next to fruit at the cash register. Lunch staff at the schools also asked the students if they would like a piece of fruit. The results from the study, conducted by Cornell University’s Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs, showed the amount of fruit that was consumed by students increased by 18 percent, and there was a 25 percent increase in vegetable consumption.
Another method that is being studied out of Australia is schools having a student gardening and cooking program. The program is intended for children to gain a higher interest in healthier foods and hopefully their mindset is more so aimed at making the right food decisions in the future. The program was also an opportunity for kids to learn about cooking and gardening at an early age.
As parents there are also things that can be done to make sure that your child has healthy options for their school lunch. First, consider what your kids like and don’t like (look over their school menu if you need to). Then find nutritious healthy alternatives that they wouldn’t mind eating, even when they see their classmates having pizza and chicken nuggets. Instead of fried chips and snacks, try giving them trail mix, air-popped popcorn, or baked chips. If they like fruit cups and drinks, trying giving them a fresh fruit bowl and 100% fruit juice. If the alternative is close to what they enjoy, it’s more likely that they will eat it.
Let’s make sure that our next generation doesn’t go through the same pitfalls we have. Ultimately, the decision will be up to the person when it comes to what they want to eat, but we have an opportunity now to instill good habits for our youth so that those decisions will hopefully be healthy ones.
You have some other ideas for ensuring a healthier youth? Leave a comment in the box below.