Helping Schools Make The Change From HomeWed 16 Nov 2011
Story by Laura McNeill
The quest for healthier school lunches continues across America, but it is not always just about changing the schools’ menu and food offerings. We also need to change what food service calls the “customer” – the students and their eating habits. Even if fresh, from-scratch, nutritious food is present at lunch, will the students be? It may take repeated exposure and numerous tries of a new food before children will like it. Parents and families have a role to play in marketing improved school food, and helping their kids make good lifelong choices.
Take for instance the recent changes made to the food served in the LAUSD in Los Angeles. While the food is not yet perfect, improvements have been made and it is now critical that students try new foods, taste improved menu items, eat all those local vegetables and whole grains, and continue the momentum of progress. It’s all about appetite, and since children’s biggest role models are often their parents, one of the most influential ways to change children’s eating habits is to lead by example.
If you are already a healthy eater, feed your children what you are eating; taking into account portions sizes depending on their age. If you are not where you would like to be with your eating habits, you can change yours with your children. It is often easier to change your lifestyle when you have others counting on you. Either way, make food a part of your family and involve healthy eating into your day to day lives.
Engaging children with interesting information, educating them on why the menu is changing and understanding where their food is coming from, will help increase the likelihood of them giving new foods a go, and as a parent there are plenty of ways you can help with this!
What Can You Do?
• If you can cook, teach your kids how to cook too, by doing so you will be setting them up with life skills that will improve their health and give them options other than premade, processed food. If you don’t know how to cook then NOW is the time to start and have fun learning together with your family. Check out our blogs of the month for inspiration from others who have taught themselves & their families how to cook.
• Enjoys the outdoors? Why not take a trip to the farm. This will allow your children to learn firsthand where their food comes from. Depending on the season, you could go apple picking, gather blueberries, or pick out a pumpkin to carve. Either way they will see apples come from trees, blueberries come from bushes and pumpkins come from the ground. You can then use your freshly picked produce to cook a fun and healthy recipe at home!
• Take your children with you to the grocery store and let them pick out some fruits and vegetables. Get them involved and interested and once back home be sure to get them in the kitchen cooking with you. Whether it is gathering ingredients, stirring the mixture or using a blunt knife to chop some veggies – if they have helped prepare and cook it your kids will be more likely to try new foods.
• Knowing how to cook is not only self satisfying, but when you cook at home you tend to eat healthier and far less calories than you would eating at a restaurant or getting take out. Cooking is also a fun and easy way to educate and involve your children on good fresh, wholesome foods and before you know it you might have little budding chefs in your kitchen!
However you decide educate your children on food; if your school is making efforts to improve their meals and nutritional content, make sure that you support the changes being implemented into the daily fare and carry new efforts of healthy eating at school into home life.
We’ve got lots of great Food Revolution recipes that you can use to get in the kitchen and start cooking from scratch with your kids!
About the author: Laura McNeill is a senior at Boston University studying hospitality and interested in everything food. She is currently an intern for Jamie's Food Revolution at the London.
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