Escali’s Back-to-School Week Lessons: Health & Nutrition
Kids are officially back in school. Whether they’re your little ones just starting Kindergarten, 2nd or 7th grade, or your big kids heading off to high school or even college…the inevitable has come and class is in session.
Though it should always be on your radar, health should be a focus as your kids priorities and schedules are changing. Obesity has been a growing problem for Americans of all ages in the past couple of decades. Unhealthy food and drinks have become more easily accessed by kids and without proper guidance and limitation, could cause them to become obese or suffer from other weight related diseases. More often than not, families with a lower overall income and families who are always on the go, tend to eat more unhealthy than their counterparts. Fast-food and other unhealthy food are relatively cheap so when parents are on a budget, it’s the go-to way to feed their kids because of the price and overall convenience.
Even though handing a child a bag of chips rather than peeling an orange or slicing an apple for them could be more convenient and allow for you to get back to what you were doing, it’s not benefiting their health and it’s not teaching them healthy eating habits. By teaching your children healthy eating habits early on in life, you can prevent obesity and other weight-related diseases such as diabetes.
Healthy diets and active lifestyles are becoming that much more important now that the kids won’t be running around outside as much. Though there are lunch programs at most public and private schools, you may also choose to pack your child’s lunch which is up to, but here are a few guidelines from Medline you should follow as well:
- Make half of what is on your child’s plate packed with fruits and vegetables
- Choose healthy sources of protein such as lean meat, nuts and eggs
- Serve whole-grain breads and cereals because they are high in fiber. Reduce refined grains
- Broil, grill or steam foods instead of frying them
- Limit fast food and junk food
- Offer water or milk instead of sugary fruit drinks and sodas
Families that can’t afford to pack a lunch for their kid’s lunches can still ensure that their kids are going to get a nutritionally balanced meal at lunch. In January 2012, the Department of Agriculture-Food and Nutrition Service passed new standards in efforts to improve the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program. The new standards (that get reviewed every three years) lay out the nutritional breakdown that requires schools to:
- Offer fruits and vegetables as two separate meal components (not just in the same category)
- Offer fruit daily at breakfast and lunch
- Offer vegetables daily at lunch, including specific vegetable subgroups weekly (dark green, orange, legumes, and other as defined in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines) and a limited quantity of starchy vegetables throughout the week
- Offer whole grains: half of the grains would be whole grain-rich upon implementation of the rule and all grains would be whole-grain rich two years post implementation
- Offer a daily meat/meat alternate at breakfast
- Offer fluid milk that is fat-free (unflavored and flavored) and low-fat (unflavored only)
- Offer meals that meet specific calorie ranges for each age/grade group
- Reduce the sodium content of meals gradually over a 10-year period through two intermediate sodium targets at two and four years post implementation
- Prepare meals using food products or ingredients that contain zero grams of trans fat per serving
- Require students to select a fruit or a vegetable as part of the reimbursable meal
Whether you pack your kid’s lunch or partake in the school lunch program, it’s very important to be aware of your kid’s nutritional needs and changing needs now that they’re growing up. Believe it or not, your kids are growing up and their needs are changing as their lifestyles, extra-circulars and daily routines are changing too.