School Food Reforms In Action

Few would argue that our nation’s obesity epidemic is not wreaking havoc on public health. In fact, just this month numerous articles hit the wire illustrating the consequences and complications of being obese. Don’t believe me? Check out DiseaseProof's obesity archive for posts like these:
All this worrying about obesity has brought prevention of childhood obesity to the forefront. Prompting many schools to overhaul the food they serve to their students. Gone are the potato chips, ice cream, and white bread; replaced by things like baked chicken nuggets, whole wheat bread, and stir-fried veggies. Marcelle S. Fischler of The New York Times examines some of menu changes occurring in tri-state area schools:
In many lunchrooms, school food directors have taken up the challenge. French fries are baked, if they haven’t disappeared entirely. Vending machines are being restocked with bottled water and juice instead of Gatorade. Snacks like baked soy and fruit chips are replacing deep-fried potato chips. Soft pretzels are shrinking; frozen-fruit bars fill the Chipwich racks.
Some of the students interviewed in Fischler’s article appear optimistic about the changes, they themselves are cognizant of the obesity epidemic, but others miss their deep-fried goodies or complain that smaller portion sizes aren’t enough to satisfy them—and some avoid the changes altogether by brown-bagging food from home.

Now you have to applaud the efforts of the school system, even though Dr. Fuhrman would hardly call baked chicken nuggets and stir-fried veggies the pinnacle of healthiness, but it sure seems like a step in the right direction. How many of us can recall classmates wolfing down trays of fries five days a week? Heck, I knew kids in college that still did that.

According to Dr. Fuhrman the best way to ensure your children are eating healthfully and getting the proper nutrition, might be to send them to school with a bagged lunch full of nutrient-rich food. He talks about it in this post from a couple of months ago: Packing A Lunch For School
Some children are happy to eat healthfully, but when it comes to school lunch they don’t want to look different from the other kids. Packing fresh fruit and a healthy bread with some nut butter and unsweetened fruit spread can be a quick option. My children love raw cashew nut butter. If using peanut butter, purchase a brand without salt and other additives. My daughters also like to take peeled orange or apple slices with their lunch. We cut the apple into four sections around the core, most of the way through, keeping the apple intact, and then wrap it in silver foil. This way it stays fresh, without discoloration, and they can easily separate it into slices.
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Jackie Danicki - October 21, 2006 7:46 PM

I'd also introduce some fun into lunches to make them more appealing - use cookie cutters (don't worry, the word 'cookie' in the name won't make your kids fat) to make sandwiches in cool shapes, pack fruit and veggies in colourful containers, and involve them in the preparation of the food. Ask them to choose from a list of options when making their lunch, and get them to help make it. It's crucial for kids feel like they some choice in the matter, and aren't having 'boring' food inflicted on them. When they feel they have a stake in what's in their lunchbox, they will feel that it's a point of pride to eat the lunch they've helped create.

Dr Fuhrman may not agree with this, but I think it's also important to allow occasional treats - in a structued way, so kids know what they are allowed and how often. A Happy Meal or a chocolate bar once a month isn't going to lead any kid down the road to obesity, but will teach him a little something about the truth no one seems to remember anymore: All things in moderation does work in pursuit of a healthful life. Deprivation just turns kids into rebels, and understandably so.

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