Let the healthy food fight begin [UPDATED]Published 10:02am Monday, September 10, 2012 Updated 12:11pm Monday, September 10, 2012
The second day of school for my daughter, it was clear there was a new lunch policy “sheriff” in town.
She had in her backpack a bunch of grapes wrapped up in a napkin. Clearly, she had not eaten it at lunch, and my best guess is that the school staff highly encouraged her to take it home.
Other signs: the elementary lunch menu includes items such as whole grain hamburger buns, homemade sloppy joes, steamed broccoli, and creamy broccoli slaw.
We also received a memo that birthday party snacks now need to be “healthy” – no more chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, folks.
I also think the days when kids could choose to drink chocolate milk every day are also over.
It’s all part of a federal school lunch policy designed to tackle the nation’s obesity program. According to a web site I found, about 25 percent of school children in Minnesota are considered to be overweight. And as we have heard many times, children who have weight problems are more likely to have weight problems as adults, and weight problems lead to diabetes, heart disease and a host of other health issues.
And while I know there are parents grumbling over having to walk on eggshells to find a healthy birthday snack, school lunch staff watching good food get thrown in the trash, and anti-government types who use this recent push as more evidence for their cause, I am all for the new guidelines.
Yes, the new rules are inconvenient for parents. However, parent convenience is probably one of the primary reasons many children have the eating habits they do. Unhealthy, pre-packaged, processed food is typically easier to prepare and serve than healthy, raw food. More likely, it’s much easier to give your kid what he or she wants – candy, potato chips, soda pop – than go through the whining, complaining and stubbornness that come with forcing them to eat healthy food.
Believe me, I’ve been through it. Thursday night, in fact, my wife made a cabbage and roasted chicken casserole. I loved it. My daughter and niece, however, essentially refused to eat it.
No one said this was going to be easy. But deep down, everyone also knows it’s necessary.
Even the anti-government types would have to agree that, really, second-graders aren’t quite mature enough to consistently choose healthier food options over unhealthy ones. I certainly didn’t.
As a kid, I had a litany of things I didn’t like: onions, peppers, peas, water chestnuts, bean sprouts, and green beans among them. My parents forced me to try them. “Two bites,” my mom would say. My parents still talk about the day when, two hours after dinner, they saw something in my mouth, only to discover that I had kept the “two bites” of green beans in my mouth rather than swallow them. (Why I chose to keep the taste of green beans in my mouth still escapes me.)
These days, I use a similar tact with my daughter, with a slightly different twist. One show she and I (but not her mother) enjoy is “Survivorman,” where a guy has to survive for a week in the wilderness with no supplies. Of course, he ends up eating every thing from snake meat to dandelion greens. When there’s a particularly new food, I say to my daughter “What would Survivorman say if he had this in front of him?” Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.
These days, as my wife will attest, there are a scant few foods I won’t eat (OK, I still don’t like canned peas much.) I’m sure how that happened, but I’m glad it did.
So I say to you parents – for the health of our children, let’s follow the lead of our government, and turn the tide on our kids’ eating habits.
Government mandate or not, all of us will be better off if it works.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org