Where do children learn to eat? In the past we could say that children learn their dietary habits at home, but that’s not entirely the picture today. Children are in school, after school programs and childcare for 6 to 8 hours a day on average, many of them having most of their meals and snacks away from home. Their choices may be in the control of other adults and institutions, and they are exposed to the habits of other children as well as advertising.
Better Health Education
Health education at home is still important, but parents also need to be concerned about the other influences their children have to deal with. Don’t leave it up to a school or caregiver to decide the best diet for your child; know what they eat and find out what they are learning.
All schools and teachers may not follow the same curriculum, there is a lot of disparity even within one city or school district. Children may receive health education from kindergarten on at some schools and only in the 5th grade at other schools. The school district may have up to date information or they may have outdated information. School educational standards change based on decisions that the school board makes, and school board members are elected officials. That means that they are meant to represent the people’s interests and concerns.
You can get involved in your local school system to influence positive health changes for all children. Investigate the nutrition content of school lunches and if your findings are unsatisfactory bring them up at a school board meeting. Your tax dollars give you the right to demand not only better education (including health education) but also a better educational support system such as healthier lunch choices.
Give Them Better Choices at Home
Start your kids off right by giving them lots of healthy choices at home like a variety of fruits and vegetables, nuts and nut butters, and good protein sources. Because children are growing they need more carbs than adults, but complex carbs like whole grain bars, breads or crackers are still healthier snack choices than potato chips, cookies and sweet drinks. If you avoid buying foods that have added sugar or sugar substitutes and offer your children fruits and berries instead, they will be getting a head start on developing a healthy lifestyle.