Strategies for Implementing Healthier Eating Options in Schools

Association of Educators
August 16, 2012 — 1,096 views  

American students spend a great deal of their time at school. While a significant amount of attention is allocated toward providing pupils with useful knowledge, a safe environment and a stable social setting, it is also vital that we provide them with healthy and balanced nutrition options.

Across the country, childhood obesity is spiking, and the illnesses resulting from this trend can lead to lifelong health problems. Because food plays such a vital role in overall wellness, it is important for education professionals to develop easy-to-implement and effective plans to ensure meals and snacks are of the highest nutritional quality.

Giving students healthy, tasty options can be a difficult process. There are constant questions of cost and access that can limit our ability to offer the ideal options. However, with an explicit plan, well-honed procedures and guidance from nutrition experts, it is possible to give students healthy eating options that will improve their physical well-being along with their ability to learn and concentrate.

Here are a few proven methods for improving nutrition at schools:

Full meals

Nothing is more crucial to a healthy diet than balance. While children are notoriously finicky eaters, it has been shown that providing them with more options and encouraging them to include items from several food groups can help them eat well-balanced meals.

One way to do this is to utilize "full meals." Instead of providing students with a buffet meal style, where piecemeal selections often lead to starch- and fat-laden trays, schools can offer meals that are designed to include all food groups.

Equipment changes

As our understanding of proper nutrition grows, we are realizing that the right equipment can help us design and prepare healthier meals. The White House's "Let's Move" initiative recognizes the importance of building cafeterias around healthy preparation tools.

"Schools should consider upgrading their cafeteria equipment to support the provision of healthier foods, for example, by swapping out deep fryers for salad bars," the initiative's official website states.

Designing kitchens around the most modern equipment can have a huge effect on the waistlines of the student body.

Snacks and drinks

Because mealtimes aren't the only occasions when students eat, it is important that school officials carefully consider their snack and vending options. Often ignored, drinks can play a substantial role in students' nutrition. Replacing sugary and soft drinks with water, pure fruit juices and low-fat milk can help limit the intake of empty calories.

Association of Educators