National School Lunch Week: October 12 to 16
This week is National School Lunch Week celebrating the benefits of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP.) The NSLP was established in 1946 and is the largest federally assisted child nutrition program in the United States; it provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program has undergone recent changes. Among these changes are requirements for more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, less sodium and fat, and an emphasis on appropriate portion sizes.
These changes could not come at a better time. The fight against Childhood Obesity is at an all-time high and people are hungry for healthy options. While school lunches still receive criticism, National School Lunch Week is about celebrating the successes in child nutrition and discussing where more improvements can be made. Recently, school gardens have begun supplying schools with fresh produce, salad bars are replacing vending machines, and fruits and vegetables are offered every day. Advancements like these are how we are going to teach children how to lead healthy lives. Teaching good nutrition is a step to ending childhood obesity.
In “Raise Healthy Eaters: Happy Table. Healthy Family.” Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD, suggests the following to raising healthy eaters:
Structure meals and snacks: Having regular meals and snacks in a designated area, instead of grazing or giving in to food requests, helps children regulate their food intake, ask for food less often and feel secure about eating.
Use everyday moments to teach about nutrition: Children learn about nutrition simply be seeing which foods are served and how often. The foods you have in your house should be in line with your beliefs about food and nutrition. They will go out into the world and notice the difference and this is where you can gradually teach them about nutrition. They will ask and you will answer.
Promote body satisfaction and discourage dieting: As children get older they will notice a culture that is obsessed with thinness and start to question the size and shape of their own body. Be there for your child to help filter the messages they hear. Focus on health versus weight and check in with your own body and dieting attitudes.
Eat together when you can: Make eating together as a family a priority. It may not be possible every day, but do it when you can.
Expose children to a variety of nutritious food: Aim to slowly add meals to your rotation that include a variety of food groups — lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, dairy or non-dairy alternatives, grains and fat. In Fearless Feeding we recommend providing 3-5 food groups at main meals and 2-3 at snack time.
Be smart about sweets: When parents reward kids with sweets, take them away for punishment, provide them to make kids feel better or overly restrict or provide too much access them, they make these foods even more desirable to kids. Instead, parents can serve them in a frequency that makes sense for their family, utilize structure and teach kids how to sensibly fit these foods fit into a balanced diet.
Read more about National School Lunch Week and raising healthy eaters: