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"Better nutrition in schools means more parent input"

nutrition in schoolNutrition in schools can be a topic that makes parents restless about their kids. It's much easier to ensure your child receives nutritious, allergen-free food at home than it is at her school.

When children begin their school education, they get to make new friends and possibly eat new foods in the school cafeteria. The down-side is that not all schools are equal in offering nutritious, wholesome foods. To top it off, they still have challenges managing children with food allergies.

Still, nutrition in schools has become an important issue in many communities. Local areas have set nutrition guidelines for their schools to meet and many have even outlawed soda vending machines on school property.

It is now common to see health teachers providing nutrition education in the school curriculum and emphasizing the need for whole grains and local produce. You can even find gardens on some school grounds that provide fresh food for the cafeteria along with education in plant life cycles.

All that sounds like a wonderful, glowing report on the state of nutrition in schools and it is when you look at the big picture. However, when you focus in on providing allergy nutrition information, many schools need help.

That means parents like you may need to step up to the cafeteria plate and take action in their local schools!

nutrition education in schools

Getting involved in planning the school menu and even offering to provide information and education on food allergies are to steps parents can take. Cafeteria staff and teachers would both benefit by learning how to help children stay safe and healthy. Fellow students will benefit by learning how sharing their milk based pudding or peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches can be harmful to one of their friends.

Some schools still segregate the children suffering from food allergies from the remaining student body. Those children eat at specific tables or in special rooms where they are safe from having an accidental exposure to an allergy-inducing food.

While keeping them safe from offending foods, they are being kept socially isolated from their friends and classmates during one of the more freer and interactive hours of their school day.

A better option would be for schools to adopt a more allergy-friendly menu. Schools can easily ban peanuts and nuts from the premises. However, when it comes to wheat, gluten, dairy, egg and yeast allergens, complete elimination may be a bit more difficult.

Currently, many schools offer an "alternate meal" plan providing children with staples such as cereal and salad along with another entrée choice for children who do not care for the day's scheduled meal.

An ideal menu would make a gluten-free, milk-free entrée available for allergic children. There are many commercial products available for schools to choose from, and perhaps parents would be able to offer input on those their children favor at home.

Otherwise, cafeterias could improve nutrition in schools by emphasizing more produce-based meals instead of highly processed ones. For example:

  • vegetable soups
  • stir-fried vegetables and meats
  • beans and rice
  • chili
  • tacos (hold the cheese)
  • meatloaf made with gluten-free breadcrumbs and mashed potatoes

These are all kid-friendly dishes that could easily serve both allergic kids as well as non-allergic ones.

And schools can take advantage of the meat of choice for most children: chicken. They can offer chicken-soup with rice, chicken with dumplings made from rice and potato flours, and chicken tenders breaded with gluten-free bread crumbs and French fries.

Offering good nutrition in schools can easily be accomplished while catering to children with food allergies. It may just require a few parents to take action and speak to the school to encourage any necessary changes to take place.

(Return to Kid Nutrition from the Nutrition in Schools page)


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