As a mom of two very young boys, it is within my control to feed my children the nutritious and healthy food their little bodies need. But I know that as they get older, I will not always be able to control what they eat. (Yikes!)
I've heard parents talk about their frustrations with our schools - elementary through high school - offering junk food and really making it quite easy for our kids to eat unhealthily while they are at school.
From vending machines stocked with soda, potato chips, and candy, to the cafeteria selling pizza, fries, and a host of other unhealthy foods, it can be very hard for kids to make healthy choices at school.
One solution to this problem is obviously eliminating all the junk food that schools currently stock. It would definitely be a shock to some people - students and teachers alike - to not have the option to purchase this food while at school. But this would likely be a huge step in improving the health of our children.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently proposed that schools make some changes to what they offer to students. Candy and high-calorie soda would vanish from vending machines, replaced with water, diet soda, and food items like baked chips. (Note that although this would be an improvement, diet soda and baked chips aren't healthy either!)
Students would no longer have the option of getting mozzarella sticks and nachos at lunch. Instead, there would be options like healthy pizza (whatever that looks like), fruit, and yogurt. Again, that would be a definite step in the right direction, but it is still not what kids should be eating (or adults, for that matter). What about lean protein and veggies and good fats?
So, what's a concerned parent to do? If your child's school doesn't offer healthy options, or if you're worried that the unhealthy options will be too tempting, packing a healthy lunch is usually the best choice. But that isn't to say that you should give up! Let your school's cafeteria director, principal, and the school board know how important it is to offer healthy food and beverages for students. Better yet, band together with other parents - there's more power in numbers!
Another thing you can do: model healthy eating habits yourself.
Tom Vilsack, the USDA Secretary, said, "Parents and teachers work hard to instill healthy eating habits in our kids, and these efforts should be supported when kids walk through the schoolhouse door." I agree with Mr. Vilsack, but I also think it is our responsibility as adults to demonstrate good behavior for kids, and that includes eating healthy food. If kids see their teachers or parents chowing down on unhealthy food, they aren't going to listen to those same teachers and parents urging them to eat healthy.
The good news is...if you are committed to eating healthier and following Beyond Diet, your kids will be more likely to do the same!