School Board Strengthens District Wellness Policy
The School Board voted in August to strengthen the District Wellness Policy in the area of nutritional guidelines. The District moves to the advanced level of the Missouri Eat Smart Guidelines. An important component is that classroom parties and celebration now need to be supportive of physical activity and healthy eating.
What supportive of physical activity means….
The policy encourages that celebrations occur without food, with fun activities instead! There are plenty of ways to plan and organize parties and events that can teach kids healthy habits. It just takes a little creativity. At school, home, and throughout the community kids are offered food as a reward for "good" behavior. Often these foods have little or no nutritional value but are easy, inexpensive, and can bring about short-term behavior change.
There are many disadvantages to using food as a reward:
It undermines nutrition education being taught in the school environment.
It encourages overconsumption of foods high in added sugar and fat.
It teaches kids to eat when they're not hungry as a reward to themselves.
Kids learn preferences for foods made available to them, including those that are unhealthy. Poor food choices and inadequate physical activity contribute to overweight and obesity. Currently, obesity among kids is at epidemic levels and can often lead to serious health problems.
Supportive of healthy eating explained….
Serving healthy snacks to children is important to providing good nutrition, supporting lifelong healthy eating habits and helping to prevent costly and potentially-disabling diseases. Holiday celebrations at school provide a unique opportunity to help make healthful eating fun and exciting for children.
The Wellness Policy states that in the event food is offered at a classroom party or celebration, the following foods should be included:
Fresh or dried fruit (no sugar added), raw vegetables or both are included.
Whole grain food is included.
Water is included.
Need some ideas? No problem….
Fruits and vegetables-Most of the snacks served to children should be fruits and vegetables, since most kids do not eat the recommended five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Eating fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables also contain important nutrients like vitamins A and C and fiber. Try lots of different fruits and vegetables and prepare them in various ways to find out what your kids like best.
Fruit is naturally sweet, so most kids love it. Fruit can be served whole, sliced, cut in half, cubed or in wedges. Canned, frozen, and dried fruits need little preparation.
Vegetables can be served raw with dip or salad dressing. Try ants on a log. Let kids spread peanut butter on celery (with a plastic knife) and add raisins.
The school does request that food brought in for class celebrations be commercially prepared/ packaged. Local grocery stores and OPPA, the school food service, can prepare fruit and or veggie platters as a convenient option for parties.
Healthy grains (bread, crackers, cereals, etc.) Though most kids eat plenty of grain products, too many of those grains are cookies, snack cakes, sugary cereals, Rice Krispy treats, and other refined grains that are high in sugars or fat. Try to serve mostly whole grains, which provide more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than refined grains. Healthy options include: whole wheat English muffins, pita, or tortillas; whole grain cereals like Cheerios, Grape-Nuts, Raisin Bran, Frosted Mini Wheats, and Wheaties; whole grain crackers; low-fat popcorn; baked tortilla chips; granola and cereal bars and; low-fat items such as pretzels, breadsticks, and flatbreads.
Water-should be the main drink served to kids at snack times. Water satisfies thirst and does not have sugar or calories. (Plus, it is low-cost!) If kids are used to getting sweetened beverages at snack times, it may take a little time for them to get used to drinking water.
Low-fat dairy foods are a great source of calcium, which can help to build strong bones. However, dairy products also are the biggest sources of artery-clogging saturated fat in kids' diets. To protect children's bones and hearts, make sure all dairy food served are low-fat or fat-free. Healthy choices are low-fat or fat-free yogurt served alone or with fresh or frozen fruit or low-fat granola; and low-fat cheese. Low-fat pudding and frozen yogurt should be served only as occasional treats, because they are high in added sugars.
Other snacks ideas include nuts, trail mix, and lower-fat, reduced-sodium brands luncheon meat served in snack size portions.
Students learn what they live….
Kids naturally enjoy eating healthy and being physically active. Schools and communities need to provide them with an environment that supports healthy behaviors.
For more information on the Montgomery County R-II District Wellness Policy contact Wellness Coordinator Dr. Della Bell-Freeman at 573-564-2278.