Stories about: school nutrition

Back-to-school health tips: Eating well at school

Back-to-school time may mean a break from 24-hour parenting, but are you worried about your child’s eating habits now that you can’t keep an eye on what she’s eating at school?

David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital recently spoke to about quick and easy steps parents can take to pack healthy snacks and school lunches for children. Here are a few of the key points:

Homemade is almost always healthier

School lunch may never have had a great reputation as far as nutrition goes, and things have only gotten worse over the years. Even when you discount obviously unhealthy choices like pizza and fries, hidden salt, artificial flavors and preservatives can tarnish even healthy options provided by many schools. “Almost anything a parent could provide will likely be better than what is served at school,” Ludwig said. “Encouragingly, some districts are aiming to improve the quality of school lunches through collaborations with local farmers, for example.”

Leftovers may get a bad rap, but with minimal effort they can often be turned into a quality lunch the following day.

“Lunches at our house usually involve some variant of what we had for dinner the night before,” Ludwig said. “Adding one new ingredient can make it seem like a whole new meal without much extra time in food preparation.”

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Can marketing make school cafeterias healthier?

Fried and processed school lunches are cheaper and more popular with kids. Can marketing make healthier options more appealing?

What do cowboys and school nutritionists have in common? They’re both constantly dealing with variations of the “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink” conundrum. In light of the growing childhood obesity epidemic, many schools now offer healthier fare in their cafeterias, alongside staples like pizza and tatter tots, but here’s the catch: healthier options are only beneficial when students actually choose them.

How many kids opt for the crisp of iceberg lettuce when the fatty allure of fried potatoes is readily available? Would your child pick the sweet tang of an orange over a slice of pepperoni? Schools may be making a more conscious effort to provide healthier food options at lunch, but studies show these choices aren’t always popular with students.

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Schools say bye to Twinkies, hi to locally-grown kale?

school lunchThe new regulations for public schools prohibit fryolators in the preparation of competitive foods. This line, from Massachusetts’ new school nutrition bill, is enough to make nutrition activists jump with joy. Fried foods will be just one of the unhealthy items stricken from Mass. schools after Governor Deval Patrick signs the bill today (full text of the bill here).

“This bill is certainly not a panacea for the childhood obesity epidemic, but it is an important step in creating healthier environments for children,” says Lisa Mannix, manager of State Government Relations at Children’s Hospital Boston, who points out that, on average, children consume two-thirds of their total daily calories while at school. Mannix, along with a number of Children’s clinicians and child health advocates, played crucial roles in advocating for and shaping the legislation.

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