Although temperatures are still scorching, summertime is almost over for most kids. And while it’s easier to help kids make healthy choices when they’re home during the summer, what happens when they go back to school? They’re constantly faced with ads pushing unhealthy food and beverage choices, and not every child has access to a healthy and nutritious meal in their school’s cafeteria. With nearly one-third of American children classified as obese or overweight, it’s time we acted to make the school day healthier for our kids.
Healthy Practices Now Build Lifelong Behaviors
Kids spend a lot of time in the classroom, with a majority consuming nearly two-thirds of their daily calories while at school. It’s important to start promoting healthy behaviors at a young age to help children develop lifelong habits which can ultimately help lower their future risk for heart disease, stroke and obesity as well as improve their performance in the classroom.
To develop these healthy habits, all children must have access to well-balanced, nutritious food options at school, and through improving nutrition policies like those in the Farm Bill, a multi-year government spending bill currently up for re-authorization, we can help every child grow up healthy.
What Can You Do?
1. Raise Your Voice
Join Voices for Healthy Kids, an initiative piloted by the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to demand action and call for change in creating a healthier future for all children.
2. Continue Teaching Outside the Classroom
It’s been said many times before that repetition is the key to learning. In order to help kids turn healthy behaviors into lifelong habits, continue these lessons outside of the classroom!
Here are a few ways you can teach kids healthy habits at home:
- Limit screen time. Current estimates show that children from 8-18 years-of-age spend more than 7 hours a day using screen-based devices like tablets or smart phones. More screen time = more sedentary behavior, and more sedentary behavior = an increased risk for obesity. Help your kids reduce their daily screen time by setting a time limit for how long they can use devices each day – the AHA recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours per day.
- Swap sugars. When your kids need a taste of something sweet, try offering fruits or homemade granola instead. If you enjoy baking, try substituting some of the sugar with unsweetened applesauce, or completely replace the sugar with a no-calorie sweetener.
- Watch out for sneaky sodium. Kids’ preferences for salty foods can be shaped early in life, and by gradually lowering the sodium content in the foods they eat, you can decrease their taste for salty foods over time. Be mindful of the sodium content in all the food you buy from the grocery store or order in a restaurant. Check all the labels, and if possible, try lower sodium varieties of their favorite foods.
How Will You Help Children Live Healthier Lives?
Want to stay up to date on news pertaining to competitive foods in schools? Click here to visit our toolkit and to sign up for the Voices for Healthy Kids Action Team!