why this is and how to change it. What are the implications on development in each sphere of undernutrition?
Having witnessed the limited resources utilised to provide free school meals in the UK, I believed that it was nearly impossible for schools to take on the mammoth task of providing healthy lunches. This was especially true in my school where 42% of the students were on free school meals.
Then I went to Sweden. They offered healthy, balanced meals in their school canteens with wholesome ingredients and they were readily consumed by the students. How did they do this? There was one main dish offered per day. The students were used to the concept that there would be 'a' meal. Some - very few - brought packed lunches. There was more of a home cooked idea. I suppose they were used to one meal being served at home so why not at school? I had a flashback to how 'school dinners' used to be in the UK in the 70's, but this time the ingredients were of much better quality.
Maybe getting rid of the cafeteria mentality of several poor choices for one healthy option might help improve our school meals. Doing away with the snacking at home and all sitting down to one decent meal rather than a parade of snacks before a rushed TV dinner may be the key to improving nutrition at home too.
I think this is a major opportunity for science classes to focus on nutrition and energy as well as budgeting. This is clearly such an important issue in today's world and our children need to be better prepared for cooking for themselves and to be able to make intelligent decisions based on something more than the fraudulent promises of advertising.
Previous posters have given great advice on how to "change" bad eating habits (parenting seems to make food-experts out of most of us).
I personally think it is wrong to even introduce "unhealthy" foods to children before they have developed eating habits at all. Take, for example, Gerber's timeline on introducing food to infants. They say to start with iron-fortified cereal, mixed with breast milk, formula or water. The next food to be introduced then is vegetables. The idea is to avoid introducing sweet foods as long as possible. This includes juice. Most juice has more sugar than nutrients. Though many parents think, well, at least he's getting some nutrients, and at least he's drinking it, what they are doing is creating a habitual sweet tooth.
Humans in general have an affinity for sweet and salty. We just do. On the other hand, young babies' pallets can be trained with persistence and consistency.
As a parent, YOU are responsible for what your kids eat. If lunches provided by schools are inadequate or do not provide nutritional alternatives to the normal starchy, fatty foods found at most lunchrooms, then you should send your kids a packed lunch that will satisfy your standards. If you provide them with money to purchase food at or after school, you should keep tracks on what they eat. Most children will use money for candy, chips and sodas if it is solely their decision. Needless to say, at home you should be able to decide what food is placed before them at mealtime and what food is housed in your refrigerator and pantry.
I am a mom too.
Here's the deal: kids need to be taught and disciplined with eating habits in our culture. In my house, if you are going to treat yourself to a snack or part of a meal that is unhealthy for you, you must eat something or many healthy things first. At dinner, for example, if we are having steak, green beans, carrots and french fries, no child gets fries until that serving of protein and servings of vegetables are gone.
I also try to provide only healthy snack choices in the house: apples and peanut butter, granola bars, frozen yogurt, trail mix. Sure, a few MnMs here and there aren't going to kill anyone, but it's all about discipline and making good choices to begin with.
Kids need to be provided with appropriate choices. The school lunch program in the public schools is the primary meal source for most school-age kids in the United States. For decades, cafeteria managers have used the least expensive commodities available, which are provided by the federal government in most cases. This has led to poor nutrition being the standard in most school cafeterias, even though all the food groups are addressed.
Fried foods, processed foods, canned and frozen rather than fresh vegetables and fruits, all contribute to poor diet for schoolchildren. It will take some funding to correct this situation, as well as a paradigm shift in thinking among school cafeteria managers.
Our school program offers breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks at reasonable prices--those who qualify can get these three meals free or at reduced prices. The meals require choices from each of the food groups, thus offering a healthier assortment of food which is not all packed full of sugar, fat, salt, and other unsavory ingredients.
As a mom, I tell my kids that they must try everything on the plate before they "decide" they don't like it. I emphasize that foods of different colors at every meal is important for overall balanced nutrition and to be sure that we ingest as many vitamins, minerals, and healthy nutrient-rich ingredients that our bodies need to fully function as they are designed to do. Of course, encouraging activity is important, too. One must eat well and exercise enough to promote healthy bodies and healthy body image.
Parents as well as students need to be educated about the health of foods. Healthier food must be made avaiolable for everyone as cheaply as unhealthy food. A dollar meal is cheap and filling, but unhealthy. If healthy food was made available at the same price then eating habits may change. Manufacturers of unhealthy foods need to take more responsibility. No matter which way you look at it, Captain Crunch or Trix will never be healthy, yet sometimes they advertise their food products that way.
Generally a child eats one meal a day at school. As outlined above, changing the way we do school lunches would be a tremendous help for this problem. What happens when those children go home, though, is less controllable. Education certainly works to some degree, and it should be done. For me, though, it's making "good" food (good meaning healthy) as cheap and as easily accessible as the "bad" stuff. Fresh food is better, but it's generally not cheaper and it's rarely easier. That doesn't mean fixing, let's say, a salad is hard; it just means opening a bag of chips or microwaving pizza rolls is generally easier and quicker. I don't have a great answer to this, though companies have begun marketing much healthier quick food products. Until the prices are more equivalent, though, it's not going to be a viable choice for many. And let's face it--this really does all boil down to choice.
Education is key, and more sensible food policies overall. Unhealthy food costs all of us in the long run as obesity brings on so many health problems later in life, and this is very expensive to treat. We could put incentives in place that subsidize fresh produce, and make it easier for schools to purchase from produce vendors directly. We can place limits on the fat and sugar content in foods served at school (since they are taxpayer subsidized already) and mount publich health and service campaigns that are more aggressive in teaching nutrition.
I am not a scientist, but I AM a mom - so I will give you my opinion. There are children that get a great deal of food, but if the food is not nutritious, then they are not going to be healthy. The film Supersize Me is a good example of this. You can eat junk food every day and ostensibly be getting "enough" food, but if it is full of fat, sugar and unhealthy components, a child will not get adequate nourishment to grow properly and, in fact, could become obsese.
It is hard to change eating habits. A lot of research has been done on the eating habits of children from poor families who do not have adequate adult supervision of their eating patterns and who therefore throw in a few poptarts for breakfast instead of a healthier choice. The parents are not home, or there is only one parent, who is not home, and the kids just grab whatever is fast and easy. They are not going to take the time to cut up some carrots and celery sticks and pack those in their lunches. So nutrition is directly linked to poverty and standard of living.
How to change this? Schools are expected to a lot of things other than educating kids these days, and many are taking on this responsibility. Schools are serving healthy school lunches with plenty of vegetables, fruits, good proteins, fiber and dairy products. If kids get used to eating these things at school, and learn to enjoy them, perhaps they will bring these improved habits home. If not, at least they are getting one to two good meals at school as part of the Free and Reduced Price Food Programs nationwide.
What do some others think?