There is an interesting article in today's New York Times, which essentially decries all the worrying about what our kids eat in schools. It openly vilifies the banning of cupcakes, and the inclusion of BMI scores on reports. Harriet Brown writes:
In Arkansas, for instance, children's report cards now include their B.M.I., or body mass index, along with their grades. The governor, Mike Huckabee recently lost more than 100 pounds and is passionate about stopping the "obesity epidemic." Maryland is considering a similar standard.
Never mind that B.M.I. is only a measure of height against weight and does not take into account muscle mass, body type or other factors. (Tom Cruise has a B.M.I. of 31, which puts him in the "obese" category.)
"You're setting kids up to feel bad about how they are," says Dr. Nancy Krebs, chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' Committee on Nutrition and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado.
Such efforts usually fail, making weight problems and eating disorders worse. A recent Internet discussion board among families with anorexic and bulimic children identified middle school health classes, which focus on weight, as the No. 1 trigger for their teenagers' disorders.
As much as Dr. Fuhrman is in favor of kids eating healthy food, in his book he makes clear that he is not at all in favor of making an environment where adults and children chastise each other for their food choices. By declaring war on certain foods, and yet having them readily available to students, our schools create a paradox, and it's not outlandish to think kids could be anxious and confused as a result. The last thing we need is a country full of stressed-out, secret bingers.
Dr. Fuhrman prefers to create a home environment that is loaded with delicious, healthy food, and essentially letting children eat whatever they want, with parents as role models in eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Listen to his podcast on getting kids to eat well, and you'll hear that outside the home, he advises parents not to be overly meddlesome.
Consider this excerpt from Disease Proof Your Child:
It is not necessary to coax them to eat or to eat healthfully. In fact, battling about food with your child is counterproductive. The trick here is to adhere to this one most important rule: only permit healthy food in your home. Children will eat whatever is available. They will not starve themselves to death; they will adapt easily and learn relatively quickly to like the food that is offered.
Here are some tips from the book to help:
- Stock your home with a variety of produce—especially fresh fruits, raw vegetables, and raw nuts and seeds.
- Replace most foods of animal origin with foods of plant origin: bean burgers, vegetable/bean soups, and fruit-centered deserts. If using animal products, use only white-meat poultry and eggs a few times weekly and other animal products more infrequently.
- Make breakfast dishes, desserts, and sauces with raw nuts and seeds.
- Limit sweets and remove sugar, salt, and white flour from the home and all products with these ingredients.
- If eating dairy foods, select no-fat varieties such as fat-free milk. Reduce diary consumption in general. Instead use nut milks, fortified soy milks, and orange juice, fortified with vitamin D. Cheese should not be kept in the home.
- As a time saver, use a very large pot to make vegetable soups with beans so that the same soup can be used for two days.
- Serve a cooked vegetable main dish every night.