COMMENTARY

Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids

Harvey V. Fineberg, MD, PhD

Disclosures

October 26, 2007

 


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More than one third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, and the problem is getting worse every year. In schools, the number of vending machines, snack bars, and other food options has increased strikingly in recent years. When kids eat at school, traditional breakfast and lunch programs are often less appealing than a soda and a bag of chips.

Many children's diets consist of foods that are high in fat and sugar. It is up to us to improve the nutritional value of our children's meals and snacks.

In its report Nutrition Standards for Foods in Schools: Leading the Way Toward Healthier Youth (http://www.iom.edu/CMS/3788/30181/42502.aspx),[1] the Institute of Medicine recommends limiting food options that are not part of the school's healthy breakfast and lunch programs. When these other foods are available, they should follow a high nutrition standard.

For example:

  • The best foods for establishing healthy eating habits in children are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy dairy products. Snacks, foods, and beverages available to students should have limited calories from fats or sugars.

  • Lowfat and nonfat milk and 100% juice should be chosen over beverages with nonnutritive sweeteners, like sugar substitutes. These sweeteners are not proven weight management tools. Plain, unflavored water should be more readily available than carbonated or fortified waters.

  • After-school and fundraising activities should apply these nutritional standards, rather than relying on candy; other high-sugar foods; and carbonated, caffeinated beverages.

By replacing unhealthy foods in our schools with nutritional alternatives, we will help children to meet nutrition standards, lose weight, encourage better eating habits, and lead healthier lives. Speak out in your local school district about changing their food options today.

That's my opinion. I'm Dr. Harvey Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine.

 


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