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How Schools Can Help Promote Healthy Eating

By Jennifer Andrews

Healthy eating habits are formed during the childhood and adolescent years, when schools can have a large impact on the development of these habits. Health programs run by schools can provide the necessary skills, environment and support needed for lifelong, healthy eating behaviors. A nutritious diet combined with regular physical activity support optimal physical growth and intellectual development and decrease the risk of mineral deficiencies, obesity, heart disease and stroke. It is important that schools promote healthy eating habits through programs and guidelines.

Offer nutrition education consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid to help kids develop healthy eating patterns. Nutrition and health classes that focus on what foods are healthy and why, what foods to eat in moderation and why and the impact of healthy foods on our bodies should be taught to children and adolescents.

Serve healthy meal options for kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of youth in the United States eat one major meal out of three in school, while one in 10 eat two out of three meals at school. Schools should eliminate or reduce meal options that are unhealthy such as french fries, burgers and ice cream in favor of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and lean protein.

Add healthy snack items to vending machines in place of soda pop, chips and candy bars. Replace junk foods with healthier selections such as whole-grain granola bars, baked pita chips, crackers with peanut butter or all-natural fruit snacks.

Initiate a breakfast program whereby your school serves up healthy breakfast meals a few times a month to educate and encourage kids about the importance of this meal. The majority of children and adolescents skip breakfast, which contributes to fatigue, low blood sugar levels, poor concentration, lethargy and irritability and makes it difficult to concentrate on studies. Organize a healthy breakfast of whole-grain pancakes or oatmeal with eggs, or offer grab-and-go snack items such as granola bars, yogurt and fresh fruit.

Plan and organize a parent-teacher committee to educate parents about the importance of healthy eating habits and how to set examples at home for their children. Families and educators should act as role models to children and engage in healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle themselves.

Tips

Combine healthy eating habits with regular physical activity to promote health for life.

Warnings

Always consult a physician or health professional prior to initiating any significant changes to diet or lifestyle.

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