Healthy School Meals for Children
There is a set of standard rules being implemented for serving healthier foods for school meals. These aim to make meals more nutritious for the millions of children who eat their lunch in school everyday.
The Standard for School Meals
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture news release, school meals need to include fruits and vegetables daily, more whole grains, low-fat or fat-free milk, and foods low in trans fats, saturated fats and sodium. There’s also the move to limit the calorie content of food according to the age level of the children.
Helping Parents Raise Healthier Kids
Many parents do their best to prepare healthy meals for their kids at home. They limit their junk food intake and take the necessary steps to give them a balanced diet. It is frustrating if what the children get to eat from the school cafeteria are the fatty, sugary and salty foods that parents don’t want their kids to eat.
An important part of preparing the kids for a healthy future is providing good quality lunches and snacks at school.
Preventing Childhood Obesity
The Prevention Research Center director at Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. David Katz, underscores the importance of having the abovementioned school food standards in helping to stop the increasing incidence childhood obesity and other metabolic disorders.
However, Dr. Katz also mentioned that the standards are not enough and can be taken a step further.
If only Congress had not blocked the plans of the USDA to cut down the number of pizza and French fries that could be served in schools or limit the number of servings of potatoes. Instead, Congress told the USDA to consider the tomato paste added to pizzas as a vegetable, which many nutrition experts consider ridiculous.
It’s sad that Congress heeded the voice of the potato growers and other food companies who lobbied against the proposed changes by the USDA. It is as if agreeing to the conservative thinking that the government should not decide what the children should eat and not eat.
Even if some school districts aired their objection to some of the requirements because of difficulty in complying or the potential high cost, it is not totally all right for Congress to agree to change some nutrition standards and set aside the children’s health in favor of the food industry’s profits.
As a consequence, people need to spend more money for type 2 diabetes treatments in children as well as the bariatric surgery of the adolescents.
On the brighter side of these issues, the approved improvement in school meal standards is a sign of progress. However, it probably won’t change the rates of childhood obesity. The epidemic on obesity is just partly due to the quality of kids’ school lunch. The improved school meal standard is only part of the comprehensive solution to childhood obesity.
Getting the Children to Eat Healthy
Will the children eat healthier foods? That is one question that is asked with regards to these issues.
The kids will eventually learn to eat healthy foods if they are exposed and encouraged to eat these types of food time and time again. For example, putting fresh fruits at the school cafeteria counter will encourage the children to eat them. Teaching them the importance of eating fresh, healthy foods and how it can help them perform well in their favorite sports, subjects and other activities will encourage them to eat more.
If food companies and the members of Congress will do their part in modeling healthy eating, it would benefit the children even more.
Photo Credits: Healthy School Meals by The California Endowment via Flickr, CC by-N.D. 2.0