An article came out today by the Associated Press called Students saying yes to junk-free lunches. It talks about how some schools are taking the junk out of school lunches and replacing it with healthier options. The article goes on to talk about how children are accepting these changes and will eat the healthier foods when they are offered.
I just have to say something now - Duh.
I have nothing against this article but it seems like lately there have been many articles and news specials on this topic. I just find it very hard to believe that the information is being presented as if it is revolutionary.
Here is a simple fact that it should not take a 20/20 special to wake you up to.
If you offer junk food in your home and in school your kids will eat it.
Kids are no different than the rest of us. Many adults have a difficult time avoiding sweets and staying healthy. Imagine if you were a young child or growing teen. What mixed messages we are sending them. The message of how obese our youth are becoming but yet we still manage to stock our home cabinets and school cafeterias with sugary and fatty foods.
If we are going to make a change it starts in the home and at school. I firmly believe that children will eat healthy if given the option to do so. I can't stand it when people say "my kid won't eat whole wheat bread or my kid won't eat low sugary cereal" My answer to that is - they will if that is all you have for them to eat or start them out right with these foods before their small bodies become used to the sugary overly processed foods .
I am not talking about strict dietary changes but if your children are small NOW is the time to start. If you feed them healthy from the start they will never know the difference. In my house my children grew up on getting juice only for breakfast, soymilk for lunch and dinner and water in between. I don't have kids screaming for another bottle of juice because they have just learned that juice is for breakfast. The same goes for other foods. Both kids grew up on plain yogurt. No Yo Baby or other heavily sweetened brands.
I am not claiming to be a nutritionist but here are my suggestions:
1. Only offer juice in the morning. milk (cow, rice or soy) at lunch and dinner. Water in between meals.
2. You should aim to have your breakfast cereal sugar content be 5 grams. Read the box.
3. Cookies, cakes, ice cream etc should not be a common daily food. If saved for special nights or occasions you will find children appreciate the treats more.
4. Don't offer dessert with every meal. If you are doing this because you use it for leverage for the kid to finish her meal you should change your ways. A child should learn to appreciate her food and not eat it only because they know they will get a cookie after. Plus, if you want bedtime to go better I would cut out the sweets at that time of night anyway.
5. Try to avoid buying foods that contain hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats). They are used solely for the purpose of prolonging shelf-life and the are in everything. Prepare more food from home instead of store bought versions or look for alternatives in your local health food store. If you don't have one near you lots of the big chain grocery stores are now offering a "natural section" of foods in their stores. The food industry must begin to produce foods that nourish rather than non-foods designed to enhanced profits because they have a longer shelf life. They profit, we lose.