Eat Healthy, Drink Healthy

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Children have been eating junk food including processed foods such as candies, cookies,  frozen foods, and fast foods.  Along with that, they have been consuming sugary drinks like sodas, sports drinks, and juice for several years. They have access to these junk foods and sugary drinks if there are sold in the cafeteria, vending machines present in the schools, or if they see teachers, or anybody else eating those foods.  Vendors  should  replace sugary drinks with  water, chocolate milk,  whole milk, 1% milk, and 2% milk .  Plus include milk alternatives such as rice milk, soy milk, and almond milk for those with milk allergies. School administrators need to urge vendors to put  cracker products, party mix, baked potato chips, sun chips, popcorn, pretzels, and Chex mix in the snack machines as oppose to  junk foods like candy bars, regular chips, cookies, and pastries. In  several school cafeterias,  they sell ice cream, cookies, pies, cakes,  fruit juices, and chips for the kids and adults to buy with lunch. Cafeteria staff should sell healthy foods, drinks and snacks in place of these junk foods.

In  childcare centers, private schools,  and preschools, teachers emphasize the concept of healthy eating.  With meals, children drink milk and water with snack. Chefs cook breakfast and lunch for the staff and children in full-day preschools and childcare centers.  In half-day preschools and childcare centers, children bring lunch from home, and children take turns bringing healthy snacks. Teachers will provide them with a cup of water with their snack. Teachers and administrators working in these childcare centers, preschools, and private schools should think about hiring a chef to cook lunch and give a healthy snack each day to the staff and students.  Students can have the option of eating lunch that they serve in school, or bringing  lunch from home. Even if children bring lunch from home, the teachers and/or chefs should give them milk.     Even if they don't have a cafeteria in these childcare centers, private schools and preschools, a chef should be  available to cook meals  for everybody in a clean and tidy kitchen.   These providers, teachers and chefs should think about serving  chocolate milk, whole milk,   1% milk, and 2% milk,  and alternatives to milk like rice milk, soy milk, and almond milk. They can think about putting these drinks in separate dispensers.  Teachers and chefs need to supervise and assist children when they use the dispensers.  Younger children need to stand on stools when taking milk, and they should provide one for each child to stand on while using the milk dispensers.  Depending on the space of the kitchen and/or the cafeteria, they should think about adding these dispensers, or just pouring milk in cups  for children to drink during mealtimes. 

Chefs should cook all the  meals fresh from scratch, and refrain from processed food. Several frozen and packaged meals have lots of preservatives, and the nutrients are not natural because they come from those preservatives. Plus all these processed foods have too much fat, sugar and sodium. Examples of healthy meals are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese sandwiches,  and pasta dishes made from scratch with vegetables on the side. They can even make chicken nuggets, chicken sandwiches, french fries, tacos, burritos, and other items children enjoy eating.

In addition with serving freshly cooked meals and healthier drinks to everybody, school cafeteria staff should add a salad bar with fruits, vegetables, chicken, and other meat products, and  salad dressings made fresh free and accessible to children and teachers during their meal times.  Younger children would need a stool to reach the salad bar, so  teachers and cafeteria staff should provide one for them.  Adults  should be there to supervise  and help children each time they want to get a salad.  Just like for the milk dispensers, depending on how spacious the kitchen and/or cafeteria, they can think about adding a salad bar. All these ideas should be put in place in  childcare centers and preschools whether they are full-day or half-day programs. They need to utilize these ideas in private and public elementary, middle and high schools, too.  

Once a month or everyday,  some schools order fast food for the students and teachers. Instead of ordering  fast food, they should  order pizza, tacos, french fries, chicken nuggets, burritos, salads, and sandwiches from fast casual restaurants once a month, for students and staff in public and private schools, full-day and half-day preschools and childcare centers.  Another idea is they can either order pizza once a week, or every alternate week from like Pizza Hut, or Papa John's for everybody to have a variety of meals. They could include these ideas depending on their budget. If  children dine out in school, they should still have access to fruits and vegetables with whatever they eat.

For children with food allergies, such as milk, corn, eggs,  nut(s), gluten, meat, or fish allergies,  chefs and teachers should provide the children with food substitutes or alternatives. School staff should give them soy, almond, or rice milk. Parents should  let the staff know about their children's food allergies.  If the school cannot provide alternatives, healthy foods for snack and lunch need to be sent from home.

In teacher's lounges , there are vending machines with all the junk foods and sugary drinks, as well. In those vending machines, I suggest they  put coffee, tea,  and milk, and the same types of healthy snacks they have for children  in cafeterias. If and when kids see their teachers  walk in with candy bars, cookies, and other types of junk food and/or sugary drinks,  they will be tempted and will want to eat them. Either vendors and administrators change the types of foods and drinks they have in vending machines for teachers, or eliminate them.  They can add separate dispensers for coffee, tea, and milk, and healthy snacks in the counter in a basket depending on the amount of space in the lounge.

Parents need to  replicate the same principle at  home because as  their first teachers, they know to should teach their children to eat  healthy.   If children take lunch from home, they should eat foods their meals should consist of fruits, vegetables,grains, meats/meat alternatives, and milk or water to drink in the correct portions. Parents should eliminate sodas, sports drinks, and fruit juices from their diets. If  dining out, or getting food from outside, parents should  order from or dine-in  fast casual and/or fancy restaurants. Everybody will be able to eat their favorite foods cooked with healthier ingredients and without excessive preservatives. Parents should know that one serving of junk food is optimal, like one candy with crackers and fruit, or even one cookie with fruits.

Fresh fruits and vegetables have more nutrients that children need, compared to juices, sports drinks and soda. Chefs  and teachers need to  feed children  fresh fruits, vegetables,  and grains, along with other protein sources such as eggs and meat. Sodas,  and sports drinks contain too much sugar including artificial sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup.  Even though fruit juices are either from concentrate or just the fruit, it still contains too much sugar, and less nutrients.  Drinking these will cause heart problems, diabetes and weight gain. These health problems will also lead to premature death. Many packaged desserts have excessive amounts of sugar including these artificial sweeteners, too.  All the nutrients our body needs will also become depleted if we drink  all these  with meals and snacks.  Drinking water and milk adds a good amount of nutrients to the body, along with eating balanced meals. 

      It is never appropriate  to use food and drinks as a punishment or reward. It is never acceptable to force children eat food  they do not want to eat.  Penalizing children for not eating the full plate or bowl of food, or  just not eating  is not suitable discipline as well. It is best to give a child something else if they do not want to eat what is given to them.  Serve small amounts of the food they are supposed to eat, and give them more if they want.  Denying meals and/or snacks as a punishment is never appropriate for  parents and teachers to do because the children will be deprived of nutrients they need.  Threatening children about not getting food during mealtime or snack time is even unacceptable and inappropriate. Using food as rewards will make children overeat after doing something good for them, and they will put on weight.  

How should we teach children healthy eating habits in a developmentally appropriate manner? Please sign the petition after reading it.  Donations will be greatly appreciated! Donations are optional!