There's a lot of food talk going around these days from the hot dogs you cook up for your kids, to meals served at home and at your child's school.
For starters, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a warning about the dangers of serving certain foods to kids under four, such as grapes, carrots, and candy. Riskiest, of all, however, is the hot dog. Indeed, they are apparently so unsafe that lead author of the AAP report and research director at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus Ohio, Dr. Gary Smith says the choking hazard they present is so great that he'd like to see the hot dog redesigned.
Then there's the fact that the federal government is taking a stand of its own, with the Obama administration asking Congress to make such changes in the Childhood Nutrition Act as removing sugary snacks and drinks from school vending machines and providing school breakfast and lunch to more kids. It's also pushing for bigger reimbursements to schools that serve breakfast.
By the way, while the National PTA and various health organizations support such legislation, most schools are not quite on board.
Meanwhile, Michelle Obama has taken on childhood obesity as her cause, advising American families to serve their kids fresh fruits and vegetables, while giving up junk food. About 30% of our children are obese, and she wants the government to intervene, saying, "It's going to require us working together-not just the administration, but Congress, governors, mayors, parents, teachers. Anyone who has access to children in their lives is going to have to work together. And one of the things that's also very clear is that this problem won't be solved by any single federal solution. This is going to require national attention."
In truth, it all starts at home.
A quick glance at public school menus shows progress has been made in recent years-but only some progress. Sure, now the cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and hoagies usually come wrapped in whole wheat bread, but that doesn't necessarily make them nutritionally sound choices. And, anyway, pizza will always be a mainstay on the menu. Then there are the breakfast offerings, which include cheese omelets, breakfast pizzas, and sausage jiffies-whatever those are.
Bottom line: serve healthy breakfasts and dinners at home-snacks, too; then brown bag your child's lunches and be guided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Kids Food Pyramid.
The 5-4-3-3-2 Kids' Pyramid Plan for 7- to 10-year-olds:
• 5 servings every day from the Grain Group (orange): Serve whole grain breads, cereals, crackers, rice, and/or pasta.
• 4 servings every day from the Vegetable Group (green): Include more dark green and orange veggies, plus dry beans and peas.
• 3 servings from the Fruit Group (red): Include a variety of fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruit-but not fruit juices.
• 3 servings from the Milk Group (blue): Choose low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, cheese.
• 2 servings from the Meat Group (purple): Bake, broil, or grill low-fat and lean meats and poultry and include more fish, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
• Keep servings from the Oils Group (yellow) to a minimum: The best sources are from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils; limit butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard.
For your 11-, 12-, and 13-year-old, just change those numbers to 6-5-3-3-2, and again limit oils.
In other words, don't depend on the government or schools to take charge of your family's diet. Do that yourself. Start with small changes, grocery shop wisely, and model healthy eating habits. Your kids will learn from your good example and thank you in the long run.
And, by the way, if you still want to serve hot dogs and keep your youngster safe, too, just slice them in half lengthwise and then cut them into small pieces. Oh, yes, quarter those grapes and other potentially hazardous foods, as well.
Carol is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. Carol also writes for examiner.com; find her articles at http://www.examiner.com/x-6261-Montgomery-County-Wise-Parenting-Examiner For more information, go to http://www.schoolwisebooks.com or contact Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org.