Let me begin by stating that this blog is written from my voice that (at least today) is equal parts parent and health promotion advocate. Our readers probably don't subscribe to this blog looking to commiserate over shared parenting experiences, but I suspect that we're not the only family dealing with the issue I describe below. I invite and encourage you to join into this conversation by sharing your stories and your solutions below.
It started a few months ago at school.
Our second grader came home from school a few months ago and shared that he had been teased at lunch by his peers. They were mocking him for having fresh cut red, yellow, orange, and green peppers in his lunch. At the time, I didn't think much about it. My son doesn't pack his lunch often, and I figured kids will be kids.
Recently however, while participating in the district-offered winter break care program, he came home one afternoon in a horrible mood. After some careful prodding, we learned that he had been taunted by "bigger kids" during lunchtime for (again) having fresh cut veggies as part of his lunch.
We spent a good bit of time with him that evening getting more information and helping him come up with some strategies that might help him feel like he had some control. Ultimately, he decided he was okay with fruit in his lunch, but that he'd forego lunch veggies and just double up at dinner.
What are we teaching our kids?
After we triaged through what was most important for our son, my husband and I started talking about the bigger picture in this situation. Right or wrong, I'm a less concerned about the general taunting and more concerned about the subject of the mocking. I realize that he is my first school-aged child, and perhaps I'm hopelessly naive. But I was shocked to learn that children would make fun of a peer over having a healthy lunch.
Then it hit me...eating healthy still isn't the norm.
Kids tease and taunt about anything that isn't "normal" or typical. The sad truth is that veggies for kids (or grown ups, for that matter) still isn't routine. Despite the easy-to-digest science, most of us don't get enough fruits and vegetables in our daily diet.
Having spent years in a corporate wellness environment for NIFS clients, I can speak with some confidence that culturally, we're still swimming upstream to make the healthiest choice the easiest choice for our workforce.
Despite some remaining significant gaps in the availability of healthy foods across the US, improvements have been, and continue to be made. School lunches have improved too under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Unfortunately, we have a long (oh, so very long) way to go when it comes to both teaching and providing our children with the tools they need to live well.
It starts at HOME.
Teaching your kids to be tolerant of differences, inquisitive instead of acusatory, and embracing of diversity (in ALL forms) is not easy. We grown ups have a lot to learn about these actions. But really - really, teaching your child to embrace a variety of foods, fascilating your child's exposure to new food experiences, and support their individual choices while maintaining nutritional standards and expectations should not be that hard.
If nothing else, teach your children the old adage, "You are what you eat" by practicing what you preach. Put a little color on your plate (and I don't mean taste the rainbow of skittles), and enlist the support of others. Let Wayne Brady rock it out for your kids!
This blog was written by Lisa Larkin. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
Do you sometimes feel tired after work, but your children have plenty of energy to burn off? Do you find it difficult to find time for fitness and family life? Try combining them for a new, fun outlook on physical activity. You and your children will benefit! It helps them burn off energy and you will hopefully gain some energy.
I’ve listed some fun and creative ways to get the family involved in a healthier lifestyle:
- Kids love video games, so look for good deals to purchase a Wii. There is fitness, dancing, boxing, and several other active games to get the entire family involved.
- Pull out some of your fitness DVDs and make a game out of who can do the most or go the furthest on the workouts.
- Be a kid again! Play games like kickball, dodge ball, and tag at the local park. Get other neighborhood kids and families involved, too!
- Find a good trail for a family bike ride.
- Depending on the season, find an indoor or outdoor pool for swimming and fun pool games.
- Light strength training is also good for the kids. They don’t need heavy resistance because their bodies are still developing. If you have an onsite corporate fitness facility, talk to the fitness staff for good strength training exercises for kids.
- Try to walk as much as possible―for example, to the park, to the restaurant, or to school.
What other fun activities have you incorporated while spending time with the kids?
This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.
With the recent release of new standards regarding school lunches and their nutrition content, it won’t be long before the food on your child’s plate will be more colorful, more portion-conscious, and more nutritious than ever before. The changes brought forth by the National School Lunch Program, in connection with the USDA, feature the following in lunches at participating public and not-for-profit private schools as well as various child care institutions:
Minimum requirements for veggies and fruits, with more choices and an emphasis on color variety
More whole grains and less refined carbohydrates
Milk choices of either skim or 1%
Calorie ranges for different grade levels that promote portion control
Limits on sodium and fat content
To better illustrate the improvements being made as the guidelines were introduced, a “before” and “after” menu was provided for a typical day. Instead of pizza sticks, raisins, a banana, and whole milk, the choices were a chef salad with low-fat dressing and a whole-wheat pretzel, choice of raw carrots or cooked corn, a banana, and chocolate skim milk. The healthier menu is certainly more well-balanced, yet reasonably attractive to a child’s appetite.
Plans are in place for a movement toward healthier breakfast and vending machine options as well. With about 32 million children taking advantage of these school lunches in America today, it’s hopeful that the new guidelines will not only help kids be at their best both mentally and physically, but perhaps put a dent in childhood obesity as healthier food habits are instilled at an early age.