Good nutrition and exercise are a crucial component to healthy physical and brain development. Children who exercise and eat healthy are more likely to not have health issues, have a better self esteem, and excel academically. One way to change the way our children eat is to educate our children about healthy eating and the effects of proper nutrition, which should start where our children learn every day. The ultimate goal of most schools is to educate our children, but this becomes an issue if our children are not getting the proper nutrition.
Several studies have shown students that have experienced malnutrition have compromised intelligence and academic performance. Other studies have shown students with low amounts of protein in their diet had the lowest achievement scores. If a child is suffering from anemia they can fall victim to poor concentration skills, irritability, fatigue and lack of attention span. The lack of fruits and vegetables along with shoving a ton of processed foods down our children’s throats for lunch, not only has a huge impact on children’s brain function, but on also on their health.
Education is a key component in preventing a number of health issues including obesity. Obesity is now the most widespread medical problem amongst children. Fifteen to thirty-three percent of children ages six to nineteen are obese. Since the 1990’s, the numbers have doubled. Eating habits of children have shifted from eating fresh fruits and vegetables to a diet of high fat, low nutrition, fast food, processed snacks and sugary drinks. Subtract daily exercise and you get a generation of children with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, breathing problems and trouble sleeping.
In addition to those health conditions you also have children with very low self-esteem who can eventually suffer from clinical depression. Children that are obese suffer from depression much more than children of normal weight. Overweight children often avoid sports and other physical activities as they often cannot keep up with their peers. Children that are overweight are more likely to be bullied and rejected from other children’s activities. They develop poor body image and lack of confidence. Obese children are also more likely to have substance abuse problems due to these issues.
They involve themselves in sedentary activities which lead to the feeling of loneliness. This becomes a vicious cycle of overeating to help relieve stress and unhappiness. If schools want our children to do well academically, then they need to not only help prevent obesity but also teach and show the link between healthy eating and different diseases and health conditions. Being overweight increases the risk of several conditions and diseases such as asthma, diabetes, gallstones, and heart disease because of the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in their blood.
This causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Obstructive sleep apnea is more prevalent in obese children, a serious life threatening condition which can lead to heart failure. Children that are overweight in their formative years are more likely to become obese as an adult. This leads to a very serious and harmful cycle that can be hard to break. Many families are fighting the change of our school lunch program. Parents are saying their children will refuse to eat the healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole wheat breads and pastas.
Children nowadays think a cheeseburger, loaded with salt and French fries doused in ketchup, is a complete and healthy meal. They have become so used to the taste of high fat, processed, salty foods that the option of healthier alternatives seems unfavorable. We need to implement a new portion size with healthy food to the younger generation to help build a steady routine and desire for healthier foods, activities, and lifestyle in general.
Society can do an extraordinary amount of good for the kids across the United States if they change what is served in school cafeterias. Some schools should try to have recess before lunch. This way they have plenty of time to play and not want to rush and gorge themselves with food in five minutes so they have more time outside. A typical school lunch consists of strawberry or chocolate milk, french fries, potato cake or other type of potato (because that is what they consider a vegetable), a fruit cup stored in heavy syrup, soaked in an alarming amount of sugar, and
a fried-breaded chicken patty on a bleached white bread bun, ooh and you can’t forget the side of ketchup packet. Instead students should see bowls of fresh fruit and vegetables on the tables for them to consume while they wait for lunches or to have as a snack sometime during the day. Their school lunches should consist of nonfat milk, a fresh fruit such as an orange, pear or maybe grapes, not stored in ten teaspoons of sugar, a fresh salad with green lettuce, not iceberg and a main dish that consists of nutrition and vitamins.
A plate of spaghetti made with whole wheat pasta, low fat content hamburger and a sauce that is full of hidden vegetables would be an example of a healthier lunch. In 2010, President Obama signed into place the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act. This new law sets nutritional standards for all foods sold in school. It provides additional funding for schools that participate in the healthy foods program and also provides local farms funding to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to their local schools.
Within this bill the number of eligible children enrolled in meal programs for free or reduced lunches is increased. Michelle Obama has also implemented the “Let’s Move Act”. This is meant to increase the number of minutes per day children are active and teach them healthy life style choices. Our schools need to implement the physical education class every day in our schools. One time a week is not enough to keep our children healthy. Society has come a long way since 1904 when school lunches were implemented.
President Obama and the First Lady are setting programs in place, but if parents don’t step up and demand that the schools make changes, it will never happen. What we eat affects everything in our life: our health, our moods as well as our learning. Parents can help by auditing their school cafeterias. Have meetings with your school principal about what she/he is feeding your child. Provide education on healthy eating and exercise. Demand physical education be put back on your children’s schedule every day.
Stand up and fight for your children’s health just as you would if he or she wasn’t getting taught properly. The education on healthy eating and exercise shouldn’t be just for the children but also to their parents. That way they are also getting the proper food at home as well. It might take some time but with consistent and realistic strategies in school and at home, the community can change what they are feeding our children. They are our future. What schools and parents feed them now, effects how they will develop into an adult, mentally and physically.