It’s no secret that what a child eats can play a major role in how well they perform in school.
Study after study — not to mention the observations of generations of teachers — illustrate that a healthy school lunch, breakfast or snack can improve a child’s ability to concentrate and learn. We also know that the good and bad habits our children pick up in youth carry over to adulthood.
All that said, we can do better.
In Allen County, roughly one third of our children are overweight or obese. The national Action for Healthy Kids foundation notes that children who are overweight may be at risk of higher absenteeism, which can be linked to lower academic achievement. Being overweight can cause social problems for some children or other health problems, which can also lead to absenteeism. When a child or an adult eats healthy and maintains a healthy body weight, they have less of a risk for developing chronic health problems such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. Eating healthy and regular physical activity can lead to a healthy body weight, which can help to promote a child’s self esteem.
And while school administrators and staffers work tirelessly to guide our kids into making the healthy choice, they shouldn’t have to do this alone.
As parents and community members, there are many ways we can help our children, and the best way is by making the healthy choice the easy choice.
If you pack your child’s lunch, make sure that fruits and vegetables are included. Low fat or non fat dairy should be selected over regular fat milk and cheese. Make lunch fun by packing a note for your child, cutting up healthy sandwiches into fun shapes or adding flavored milk to the lunch box. Give your child healthy choices and have him put his lunch together if he is old enough so that he feels that he has control over what he is eating.
Lunches offered by schools should promote the health of all children, according to Healthy School Lunches, a physician’s committee for responsible medicine. Some changes that they recommend are to have vegan options, non dairy beverages available for children with allergies that are rich in calcium, and promote programs that educate parents, children and food service personnel about the benefits of healthy eating.
If you think your school can do better, let them know. Activate Allen County is working with Allen County schools to develop meal programs that can help our children perform better in school and life.
Our latest success has been helping Lima Allen Council on Community Affairs increase the nutritional value of the food served to all Head Start students, the Head Start Wellness Team in Lima has worked with Activate Allen County to create a new and improved Five-Week Rotating Menus for Breakfast, Snack and Lunch time for their programs. The menu items were adjusted to increase whole grains and protein options while decreasing sodium milligrams and fat grams served. The healthier food served in local Head Start classrooms will benefit all children in the program.
If you would like to find out more about Head Start’s new menu, or want some ideas for making school meals better, go to www.activateallencounty.com.
Health tips courtesy of Activate Allen County will appear in this space every Monday.