We're already three weeks into National Nutrition Month, so now more than ever, we should be looking at our plates to make sure we're taking in all of the necessary nutrients and vitamins and leaving out as many harmful elements as possible.
A great way to get on the track toward a healthy lifestyle is to establish healthy eating habits during childhood. Developing nutritious eating patterns early on is vital for the future health of our youth, but not all Connecticut parents are convinced the school system accomplishes this during lunch time.
North Branford mother and Patch contributor Doreen Currie sends her girls to school with bag lunches to avoid the tempting, sodium and fat-laden options that children are often faced with on a daily basis.
"Not only did I not want them to eat them, but they don’t want to eat them either," said Currie of the hot lunch options. "You can get a hot dog every day. That’s right; you can have a hot dog for school lunch every day from first grade until you graduate."
While National Nutrition Month might make us adults think twice about the full-fat latte and the soaring calorie count of our weekly pizza take-out (how can we resist, East Haven is practically Little Italy!), kids aren't as aware of repercussions of cheesy fries and hot dogs everyday, especially when they're getting them from their blindly trusted school employees.
Information for school lunches on the North Haven Schools’ website presents the value of school lunches, which compares the price of bag lunches at $3.43 to the price of school cafeteria lunches at $2.08. It also states that “students who eat school lunches consume less calories from fat than students who eat lunch from home.” It also states that, “compared to lunches from home, school lunches contain three times as many dairy products, twice as much fruit, and seven times the vegetable amounts.”
However, the March 2012 menu for elementary school students still includes main entrees of chicken nuggets, tacos, hamburgers, breaded cheese sticks, pizza and the ever present french fries.
A balanced diet for kids is more important now than ever as the percentage of obese and overweight individuals in America is skyrocketing.
According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the latest Connecticut Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 2009 determined that 10 percent of high school students were clinically obese (a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher). According to the Center for Disease Control, obesity is now second only to smoking as one of the nation’s leading causes of preventable death.
The North Haven Public Schools Dining Services official website states that the district, “has elected to participate in the Connecticut State Healthy Food Certification Program. Therefore, all ala carte snack items at every school district wide meet or exceed Connecticut Nutrition Standards as set by the program.”
The state’s initiative to implement healthy eating standards put Connecticut as the fourth least obese state in the country as of 2010, sharing fourth place with Utah at 22.5 percent of the state obese and beaten by Nevada with 22.4 percent, District of Columbia with 22.2 percent, and Colorado with 21 percent. Last on the list with the highest percentage of obese individuals in the state was Mississippi with 34 percent measuring a BMI of 30 or higher.
While healthy options do exist for students in their school cafeteria, some might wonder why the unhealthy options exist alongside them at all when the country's health has so rapidly deteriorated.