Here’s a fact: almost one in three American children is either overweight or obese. According to studies, if this problem isn’t solved soon, it is possible that a third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes later on in life. If not diabetes, then these children are also at risk for chronic obesity complications like heart disease, asthma, hypertension, and even cancer.
With America battling childhood obesity for the past three decades, First Lady Michelle Obama has launched the “Let’s Move!” campaign, dedicated to solving childhood obesity through providing easier access to healthier and more affordable food. Parents, government officials, schools, health professionals, communities, and private sector companies are all part of the initiative to ensure a healthier future for children.
The move for healthy schools
Since children consume around half of their meals at school, the role of schools in providing nutritious food is more important than ever. The “Let’s Move!” campaign has paved the way for the revision of school meal standards that focus more on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and cut down on fat, sodium, and calories. Here are some of the changes implemented to new school meals:
Changes in food groups
School canteens should now offer more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in their meals. Dairy products are changed to low-fat varieties. Foods that are high in sodium and fat are also decreased.
Changes in portion size
Menus are planned depending on the grade level of the child. This exposes the students to the right portion size, appropriate to their age and grade level.
More incentives for schools
Schools that meet the new standards are given additional funding. For every lunch that they serve by the new standards, they get a reimbursement of six cents.
The tie-up with local chefs
One of the subprojects of the “Let’s Move!” campaign is the “Chefs Move to Schools” program, which matches schools with local chefs, so that students are served with more delicious and nutritious meals. The local school chefs aim to make eating fruits and vegetable fun, so that students can tie up positive experiences to healthy eating.
Establishment of salad bars
The First Lady has challenged American schools to put up a total of 6,000 salad bars, leading to the program called, “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools.” Salad bars have been shown to increase the intake of vegetables and fruits for kids. They are also effective in implementing the new school meal standards.
What else can schools do to promote healthy eating?
Aside from the “Let’s Move!” campaign, there are also more ways by which educators can encourage healthy eating to their students:
Be a role model
As second parents to their students, teachers can serve as great role models by occasionally eating healthy school lunches with their students. This will not only promote nutritious eating, but also help build stronger bonds between students and teachers. Implement a snack policy in the classroom. For teachers offering snacks in the classroom, they can limit them to healthy options like whole grains, fruits, veggies, and low-fat dairy. Teachers can also send a healthy snack tip sheet to guide parents in preparing their children’s snacks.
Incorporate nutrition education in the curriculum
Teaching students the importance of healthy eating can help them live a better life in the long run. Speak positively about healthy meals and encourage students to try new meals even if they are not familiar with the food.
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