If you’re watching your diet, it is very likely that you’re also concerned about your children’s daily diet. Approximately 21-24% of American children are overweight, and another 16-18% are obese. What are our children (or grandchildren) eating on a daily basis and how does it contribute to the current childhood obesity problem?
Today, school lunches are much healthier than they were a decade ago, for instance. Still, we can’t help but notice that school meals often fail to meet the US dietary requirements.
In fact, primary and secondary educational institutions lack the budget to offer their students nutritious and balanced food. As a result, many children in the US continue to get unhealthy meals at school. Let’s take a look at some of the aspects of school lunch programs that require significant improvement.
Inadequate Calorie Levels
According to research, the menus of only 44% of schools fit into the healthy calorie range. Usually, lunches have too many calories, with one-third of the nutritional value of school food coming from fat.
Sadly, we’ve also found that children eat an unhealthy amount of saturated fat — a type of fat that’s linked to heart disease.
Poor Quality and Poor Versatility
As a rule, school lunch programs must include a wide range of healthy food components. However, few US students get quality meals that feature a healthy selection of ingredients.
For example, the NSLP recommends high-school students to have two cups of fruit and vegetables for lunch. Unfortunately, most lunches do not meet this requirement. In fact, school menus rarely feature fresh fruit and non-starchy veggies. Instead, they consist of poor-quality food that is bad for our kids’ health.
In our opinion, the worst part about school meals is the high percentage of sodium they contain. For years now, the US government has been trying to limit high-sodium foods in school cafeterias. Still, so far, the efforts have been in vain. In fact, most school meals now have twice as much sodium than it’s recommended.
For the most part, school lunches are healthy only in theory. In reality, our children continue to eat too much sodium, fat, carbs, and sugar and are not getting enough fresh veggies or fruit.
Clearly, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. On the bright side, though, the last ten years prove that school meal programs can indeed be transformed for the better.
Educating children at home on smart food choices, and modeling them ourselves, is the surest way to help them avoid the obesity trap and all the health complications that inevitably burden many adults who struggle with their weight.