School Nutrition Programs
Components of a Good School Nutrition Program
The federal government is increasingly aware of the effects that school nutrition has on children, and so many guidelines have been put in place to guide schools on their nutritional selections. Still, schools vary on how well they comply with the standards. Here are some criteria for evaluating whether or not a particular school has a good nutrition program.
Part of the federal government's guidelines includes having many choices for vegetables in the school menu. Some schools have begun to provide salad bars or fresh cut vegetables in their meals. This is clearly the best option, as raw vegetables provide the most nutrients. Another fine option is having a couple of cooked vegetable dishes as side options. The schools to watch out for are the ones that include the tomato sauce in their pizzas or French fries as vegetables. While these technically have some vegetable content, the nutritional value is lost because the vegetables are not cooked in a healthy way.
The best schools have begun to provide healthy breakfast for kids. Schools know that some parents have a hard time getting their children out the door on time in the mornings. This may mean that breakfast is not a priority and the children either eat an unhealthy breakfast or nothing at all. Having healthy breakfast options at school makes sure that all children have access to some nutrition to start their days. Since breakfast is the most important meal for mentally and physically productive days, it makes sense that schools would be willing to play a part in providing this nutrition.
Another item that appears in most good school nutrition programs is a wide selection of healthy snacks. Snacking is a good area to get children to form good nutrition habits, because the snack foods they choose are a matter of what's easily available and what becomes normal over the course of may snacking events. If children are taught to eat healthy snacks, this can change their entire eating pattern. Children who develop a taste for healthy foods are more likely to make good choices in their diet and fitness.
Finally, good nutrition programs involve not only the opportunity for choosing healthy foods, but also the education that allows children to understand nutrition and make good nutritional decisions. Schools can incorporate these lessons into their curricula or include them in general school assemblies.
In summary, children and nutrition are hot topics these days, with more and more schools realizing the critical role they can play in making sure that all children receive the nutrition they need. The best way to ensure that all children have access to nutritious food, despite the conditions that they experience at home, is to have strong school nutrition programs. Ensuring that there are plentiful and appropriately cooked vegetables, healthy snacks, and healthy breakfast options in all schools is a way to curb the nutrition issues that have arisen in the past several years.