Pro­mote Healthy Weight Start­ing With School Lunch

Riverbank News - - 209 LIVING -

Al­though there are a va­ri­ety of the­o­ries be­hind the grow­ing obe­sity prob­lem plagu­ing North Amer­i­can adults and chil­dren, the most con­sis­tent find­ings point to caloric in­take as the cul­prit. Here’s a sim­ple equa­tion to get to the root of the prob­lem: Calo­ries eaten > calo­ries spent = weight gain. Ac­cord­ing to Na­tional Health Ex­am­i­na­tion Sur­veys, adult obe­sity trends in the United States be­tween 1976 and 2014 in­di­cate the per­cent­age of the adult pop­u­la­tion clas­si­fied as obese has roughly dou­bled to more than 38 per­cent in the last three decades. Chil­dren may be learn­ing eat­ing habits from their par­ents, po­ten­tially con­tribut­ing to ris­ing obe­sity rates in chil­dren as well. Re­cent find­ings from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion in­di­cate one in five school-aged chil­dren and young peo­ple in the United States is obese. In Canada, the Pub­lic Health Agency says roughly one in seven chil­dren is obese. Teach­ing chil­dren healthy eat­ing habits starts at home and can ex­tend to what stu­dents are given to eat while at school. The Cen­ter for Science in the Pub­lic In­ter­est says schools across the coun­try are work­ing hard to im­prove school nu­tri­tion. Here’s how par­ents and school dis­tricts can help make school lunches more nu­tri­tious and de­li­cious and lower in calo­ries. Con­trol snack in­take. The U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture says that more than one-fourth of kids’ daily caloric in­take comes from snack­ing. Choos­ing smarter snacks may help re­duce overeat­ing. Good snacks can in­clude grain prod­ucts that con­tain 50 per­cent or more whole grains by weight; snacks in which the pri­mary in­gre­di­ent is a fruit, a veg­etable, dairy prod­uct, or lean pro­tein; snacks that are a com­bi­na­tion food that con­tain at least a quar­ter cup of fruits or veg­eta­bles; and foods that con­tain no more than 200 calo­ries. Read nu­tri­tional in­for­ma­tion. When se­lect­ing foods for school lunches, par­ents should read the nu­tri­tional in­for­ma­tion to make sure they know ex­actly what they are feed­ing their chil­dren. Se­lect foods that are low in sat­u­rated fats and choles­terol and high in fiber and nu­tri­ent-rich fruits, veg­eta­bles, grains, and legumes. Go with wa­ter. Re­think­ing bev­er­age choices can help con­trol kids’ caloric in­take. Many peo­ple don’t re­al­ize just how many calo­ries beverages add to their daily in­take. Even a sixounce, 100-per­cent ap­ple juice can in­clude as many as 96 calo­ries. So­das and other soft drinks pack a hefty caloric punch. Wa­ter, seltzer and unsweet­ened iced tea are healthy bev­er­age op­tions. If milk is the go-to bev­er­age, choose a re­duced­fat ver­sion. In­tro­duce new foods. Chil­dren can be no­to­ri­ously picky eaters, but with pa­tience and per­se­ver­ance, par­ents can in­tro­duce new, healthy foods at lunchtime. Yo­gurt, hum­mus and salsa are healthy and can add fla­vor to veg­eta­bles and fruit. When mak­ing sand­wiches, ex­change re­fined breads for whole-grain va­ri­eties. Choose lean pro­tein sources, and go heavy on veg­eta­bles and fruits for nat­u­ral fiber, which will cre­ate feel­ings of sati­ety. Read the school menu. Let chil­dren in­dulge in or­der­ing from the school menu when healthy op­tions are fea­tured. Urge them to try some­thing un­ex­pected, rather than stick­ing to chicken nuggets or pizza days.

Healthy eat­ing habits be­gin in child­hood and can be ini­ti­ated with school lunch, whether it is a sack lunch from home or pur­chas­ing a school lunch with healthy op­tions.

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