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kids-cafeteriaJust two years after new federal nutrition standards went into effect requiring U.S. schools to provide more healthful lunch options, a study conducted by the National School Nutrition Association reveals the dismal truth: most children aren’t making the switch. In fact, much of the healthier food is being tossed in the trash.

The National School Lunch Program provides meals for more than 30 million schoolchildren nationwide, but according to the study 81.2 percent of schools surveyed said they saw an increase in the amount of food being thrown away by students since the new standards took effect. That amounts to nearly 4 million dollars a day in wasted food, say researchers at Cornell University and Brigham Young University.

As part of the new standards, schools are now required to provide more fruits and vegetables, but just making healthy choices available may not be enough. “The concept is just wonderful—but in fact, if a student is only going to take it and then discard it—it’s going to be a waste,” said one school nutritionist.

Indeed, just putting healthy foods in front of kids is not a solution. Parents can help by setting the example at home and encouraging a healthy diet and lifestyle habits early on. Talking to kids about choosing the right foods (and why) as well as the importance of physical activity and a healthy body weight can have an impact on the choices they make in the school lunchroom. Getting them involved in the process of preparing and cooking dinner can also have lasting benefits.

It comes down to this: when kids see parents making healthier choices, they will want to do the same. Keep junk food out of the house, and encourage healthy snacking on low-sugar fruits, non-starchy veggies, dairy products, healthy fats and protein. That way, they’ll be more inclined to seek out those foods in the cafeteria.

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children-playingIn the last thirty years childhood obesity has more than doubled among U.S. children (ages 6–11) and quadrupled in adolescents (ages 12–19), putting American youth at greater risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke as they grow older. Because September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, here are two new studies spotlighting the importance of promoting good nutrition and lifestyle habits—plus several links to smart and simple tips for raising healthy kids!

Little Couch Potatoes Grow Up to Be Big Couch Potatoes
Researchers at University College London recently wrapped up a decades-long study in which they found that children who spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV tend to become adults who spend a lot of time sitting in front of the TV—a behavior known to contribute to obesity and obesity-related disease. After monitoring the viewing habits of more than 9,800 participants, they found that nearly 83 percent of 40-year-olds who watch more than three hours of TV daily had similar habits at age 10. This prompted experts to stress the importance of teaching kids about the benefits of physical activity for a healthy weight and overall wellness.

Learning to Like Certain Foods Starts Early
A new series of nutritional studies suggests childhood eating habits form during infancy, and parents should be aware that taste preferences for certain foods can take root even before little ones start walking. The combined results of more than 10 studies, published this month in the journal Pediatrics, show that eating patterns are set early in life—making it even more important for parents to promote healthy foods sooner rather than later. They recommend getting babies interested in fruit and vegetables by late infancy (between 10 and 12 months) and encourage parents to keep trying even when kids spit out certain foods, as repeated exposure often increases acceptance.

Parents and family members can check out our previous blogs for tips and advice on children’s health and nutrition:

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