Intervention in the lives of people with bad habits — from drugs and alcohol consumption to hoarding and other excessive vices — are common themes on reality TV shows. The latest intervention by the government is one that might be better done at home — though some families might be ill-equipped to handle the food consumption challenge on their own.
Schools recently were tasked with providing even more rigid standards on the types of foods they offer students, notably a maximum number of calories per week rather than the previous minimum calories and nutritional requirements. The school lunch overhaul was undertaken by First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with an emphasis on not undermining the good eating habits established at home and to reduce obesity. In many situations, it appears the problem with eating might begin at home and school already is providing a more nutritious meal plan than kids experience on an everyday basis.
While some students might complain to their parents that they are getting less food with the new plan, they might be omitting the fact the serving sizes for fruits and vegetables doubled from what they were before. The serving sizes for grains, however, decreased, as evidenced by smaller rolls and other breads. Kids also might be getting exposed to foods they haven’t eaten before with the food provider’s mandated inclusion of more legumes — also known as beans.
Many kids arrive at school without consuming the most important meal of the day — breakfast, according to Marcia Servatius, Chartwell’s food services director for Ottawa High School and other Ottawa schools. Students who haven’t had breakfast start out at a disadvantage. “Children who eat breakfast perform better in the classroom and on the playground, with better concentration, problem-solving skills, and eye-hand coordination,” according to the American Dietetic Association.
Other challenges for schools might be kids’ lifestyles. If children haven’t been exposed to gardens and eating fresh fruits and vegetables, they might be unwilling to take a risk on a food they haven’t tried. Fortunately, the schools are happy to give kids sample tastings of foods they might not have tasted before, so the risk of taking something they won’t like and discard is reduced. Again, if kids had been introduced to more of these healthful foods at home, they might not gravitate so quickly toward cheese pizza and other non-vegetable oriented offerings.
Kids can be picky eaters regardless of their age, however, if they take a portion of pre-packaged food, such as a crackers-and-cheese Lunchables, to school for lunch, they still aren’t consuming as healthful of items as they could by including nutrition-laden fruits and vegetables.
Though the well-intentioned food guidelines might not have a quick payoff of reducing obesity in children, it could well be a baby step toward better long-term lifestyle choices on eating better on a regular basis.
— Jeanny Sharp, editor and publisher