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Occasional ramblings by an anesthesiologist/mother (and sometimes her husband).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Banning Pop (Soda) in Schools

There's been quite a few stories in the news about banning the sale of pop in schools. Some states have even suggested checking the lunches students bring in from home and suggesting to those who bring in pop that they not do so. So here's my two cents.

The first thing I always find interesting is that they seem to think that eating junk food and drinking pop in school is the main source of obesity in children. They ignore the fact that school is only one segment of a child's life. Children are becoming obese at younger and younger ages. Some obesity clinics are reporting patients as young as 5 years old. Family life plays an important role. Children eat what their parents eat, what their parents feed them. They don't eat what they're not forced to. There is a growing group of parents who want to be their children's friends and not their parents. They don't force their kids to eat vegetables, they don't cook healthy meals. People are busier than ever today and more and more go out to eat/get fast food. I know, because I do the same thing. If parents have poor nutrition habits (as obesity and diabetes rates in the country suggest many Americans do), then how are their children going to get good habits. I happened to see a new show on TLC a few weeks ago. It's called Honey, We're Killing the Kids . Now the show uses scare tactics and some cheesy computer simulations to show parents what their children will be like in 20 years if they continue along the way the eat/exercise now. Then they're offered ways to change their lifestyle: limit tv, eat better, exercise more. Let me tell you, these kids fight tooth and nail. But it's something the whole family does together.

Another thing is what gets banned and what it gets replaced with. First off, whole milk is also banned because of it's high fat content. Young children can benefit from the higher fat content. At least it's being replaced by low fat milk (and they still have health benefits). What I find most interesting is that in many locales this ban includes all sodas, including diet soda. What is replacing these sodas is often high sugar and high calorie fruit juices. Granted there are health benefits from the juices compared to sodas, but most commercial juices have high levels of corn syrup and very little actual juice. They will add things like Vitamin C. So what is the kid with diabetes supposed to drink? High sugar fruit juices?

It's not only snack food and pop they should be worrying about in schools. When children buy their lunch at school what exactly are their options? I did a quick google search and found some online lunch menus. Things on the list at one middle school: grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, tater tots, pizza, etc. Many of them came with sides of vegetables. Often though, when children are faced with choices between healthy foods and fatty lunches, they choose the fatty ones. It used to happen all the time in my high school. The most popular item on the lunch menu were buttered noodles. Not exactly health food.

Don't misunderstand me, I think it's great that schools are trying to offer healthy lunches for students. But, altering what's available to children in school probably won't make too much of a difference. They'll still find ways to eat the junk at home. And changing the food they encounter at school won't make them less sedentary. The entire country's eating and exercising habits need a makeover. Including mine.

Do yourself a favor. Eat better, exercise more and if you have children, make sure they do the same. That will do more than banning junk food and soda in schools, taxing junk food or any of the other government based ways of trying to force it on us. Its called personal responsibility. Have some.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I mostly agree with you, though I think it's a little of both -- for the kids whose parents do pay attention, it will be redundant. For the kids who don't get much food guidance from home, it might set some sort of example if they at least see healthy and tasty options at school. (However, I think the idea of lecturing kids who bring pop to school for lunch is at least one step too far.)

H managed to lose some weight on his own a few years ago (before we met), but his family didn't change their eating habits at all. They also voiced concerns that he was losing too much weight when by BMI standards, he had simply moved from "obese" to "overweight." Eventually, he quit the "diet" and gained it back. We're both working on it now, and the biggest thing I've found that helps both of us is making lunch a bigger meal than dinner. Usually this means we can have meat at lunch (in fact, we usually need it or the blood sugar crashes hard), but not after 4pm or so since we're not going to burn it off before bedtime anyway. We're exploring Moosewood's Low-Fat Favorites for interesting vegetarian dinners, and yes, even the recovering picky eater is finding stuff she likes in it. s:) (It's also dropped our grocery bill by $30 or more so far, even with having to get certain speciality ingredients, to not have to buy as much meat.)

4:26 PM  

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