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June 27, 2011 - Jodelle Greiner
I remember when we were really little — like first grade — we got a milk break. We all went to the school basement and got our little carton of milk every morning. I don’t remember getting anything to eat with it and those milk breaks were gone a grade or two later.
I have fuzzy memories of holiday parties where we might have gotten a cupcake or brownie that someone’s mom brought in. Some SweeTarts or other candy in our Valentine’s cards if we were lucky. A book of Life Savers for a Christmas gift exchange.
We NEVER had a vending machine in either grade school or high school. We got our water from a water fountain, not a bought water bottle (they hadn’t been invented yet).
I know it’s been a looong time since I was in school, so I’m out of the loop, but I’m puzzled over the problem the schools are having with food.
I’m not talking about the lunches they serve, I mean the snacks. Seems every school in this area is implementing a policy governing what kind of snacks the kids can bring, sometimes even down to how many graham crackers or goldfish the kids can have at a time.
They are doing this in an effort to cut down on the sugary, non-nutritious eating the kids do. The schools are trying to cut down the calories the kids consume and limit the amount of junk food they get, because childhood obesity is at an all-time high and it’s going to cause more health problems for these kids as they age. A report in Friday’s Star-Tribune said about 10 percent of U.S. children between infancy and age 2 are overweight and one out of every five preschoolers, ages 2 to 5, are overweight or obese.
I think it’s admirable the schools are making this effort, but I really don’t think it’s their responsibility to monitor what these kids eat. It’s the parents’.
Blame it on whatever you want: a sedentary lifestyle, too many video games, no time for families to cook and sit down to proper meals, parental guilt, a reward system based on food, boredom — whatever. Kids are eating all the wrong things and way too much of it.
Parents need to start thinking about what they serve their kids, and about the example they, the parents, set for the kids. If you skip breakfast, so will your kid. If you eat pizza every night, so will your kid. Kids are little sponges and mimics, even the teens. If they see you doing it, so will they. There is no such thing as “Do as I say, not as I do.”
One of the things the Star-Trib report mentioned was portion control. Some parents (and schools) pile the kids’ plates with food, which encourages the kids to overeat. When I was a kid, my parents gave us small portions; if we ate that, we could have more. This system cut down on food left over on the plates, which got thrown out, and left more in the pan, which went in the refrigerator for the next meal.
I know everyone is busier than they used to be, but I think kids are pretty important and we should be spending time with them. Swing through the produce aisle and pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables. Teach kids to peel carrots — this is something even pretty young children can get the hang of — help them cut up apples, toss in a handful of nuts, mix it all in a big bowl with lots of lettuce and you have a salad. Teens can handle making the salad all on their own. Ask the kids what they want in the salad — raisins, grapes, mandarin oranges, green peas, cheese cubes, black beans — you don’t have to make it the same every time and the kid will be more apt to eat it if they have some control over what went into it.
If you’re not sure how to put together a balanced, nutritious meal, call the local Extension office and ask for their nutritional advisor. Or ask your doctor, pediatrician, or dietician. They can all help or point you to someone who can.
We all need to eat better and there’s no time like the present to start.
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