The Norman Transcript

Education

August 10, 2013

Start the new school year with healthy eating habits

NORMAN — A new school year is an ideal time to re-vamp healthy eating habits for students, and Norman Public Schools Health Coordinator Sunny Miller is a wealth of ideas and information for parents looking to keep kids’ eating habits as healthy as possible.

“Parents should try to think about everything in moderation and when looking at options for kids, it’s OK to have sugar but it needs to be in small amounts. Kids need a little bit of everything,” Miller said. “The key is to keep a close eye on serving sizes and get away from those high-calorie, low-nutrient foods.”

NPS, in conjunction with food services provider Sodexo, has tackled child health and nutrition from many angles, making breakfast as accessible as possible, restricting vending machines’ unhealthy options and requiring more fruits, vegetables and whole grains on daily lunch menus than ever before. Sodexo even introduces students to fruits and vegetables they haven’t tried before by featuring a fruit or vegetable each week

A new priority area for educators and researchers alike, Miller said, is classroom celebrations or Parent Teacher Association events in which students’ parents provide party foods.

“I think parents really want to provide good, healthy options but run out of ideas or get stuck in a rut with party snacks,” Miller said.

A 2012 study by Long Island University nutritionists Kathy Isoldi and Sharron Dalton focusing on what they called “celebration foods” found that healthy options like orange slices were vastly outnumbered by “low-nutrient, calorie-dense” foods like cupcakes, cheese puffs, donuts, Doritos and candy — coupled with high-sugar beverages like Hi-C and Capri Sun.

“Our finding suggests that classroom parties provide children an additional opportunity to consume excessive calories while at school,” Isoldi and Dalton reported.

Moreover, Isoldi and Dalton observed that guidelines for classroom party snacks distributed to parents asked for just one “treat food,” but class parties still saw a dominance of unhealthy sweets, a trend which they attributed to ineffective communication between school personnel and parents.

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Education