The U.S. Department of Agriculture released new standards for nutrition in the schools this week. Titled “Smart Snacks in School” the goal is to provide healthier snack options in the vending machines at our schools.
The real problem is childhood obesity affects at least 17% of school children today and is increasing like a runaway train. “Little Johnny” is no longer little, he has become “Big Johnny” seemingly overnight.
Childhood obesity develops into adult obesity with all of the associated problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The time to solve the problem is before it becomes a problem and that means helping children develop better eating habits that are both tasty and nutritious.
If you look at the most popular vending machine snacks, they include Snickers, Peanut M&Ms, Cheetos, Doritos, Twix, Pop Tarts, and of course the always popular potato chips. While these treats rank high on the tasty scale they are loaded with the three biggest contributors to early health problems, namely, sugar, fat, and salt.
The sneaky part about these ingredients is that the more you eat, the more you want. But don’t be fooled by snacks that claim to be healthy but in fact aren’t what they seem. Take granola bars for instance. If you dissect them out, you often find a high percentage of processed carbohydrates, and very little fiber. Between the dried fruit and the honey used to hold it all together, they have as many sugar calories as there are in a Twix bar. But the good news is that taste buds can be trained to be satisfied by snacks that are truly healthy such as nuts, whole grain chips such as Sun Chips, Fig Newtons, Baked Chips, Pretzels, and yes even Popcorn without the trans-fat. The changes won’t happen overnight, but if we all try just a little bit each day to encourage our children and grandchildren to make better snack choices, we will be helping them to become healthier happier adults.