Healthier diets at school could lead to better eating at home
Even if parents stock the kitchen with foods that are good for kids’ oral and overall health, many may worry about what their sons or daughters might be eating outside the home, mainly at school. While school lunches may have gotten bad press over the years when it comes to their nutritional content, one bright note is that a recent study suggests that offering healthier food choices at school helps kids improve their eating habits. The study included 55 Michigan middle schools with large populations of low-income students. Some schools made limited changes to their nutrition policies and practices, while others offered significant changes. At some schools, these changes included raising nutrition standards for snacks and drinks, offering healthy food taste tests and drinks to students, marketing healthy foods in school and removing ads for junk foods. The results showed that schools that put three or more new nutrition practices and policies into place had students who ate 26 percent more fruit, 14 percent more vegetables and 30 percent more whole grains. These students also increased their intake of fiber, calcium and vitamins A and C, according to the study, which was published online late last year in the Childhood Obesity journal.
The good news? The results indicate that new federal nutrition standards for schools that are supposed to take effect during the upcoming 2014-15 school year may help improve students’ eating habits. The new standards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will set limits on calories, salt, sugar and fat in foods as well as drinks offered in schools. They will also promote snack foods that contain more whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables.
As dentists at Scripps Pediatric Dentistry, we’re excited about the thought that new standards in schools might promote kids to eat better. In addition to being advocates for overall health, we know that kids who eat and drink foods with less sugar may be at a lower risk for cavities, tooth decay or other oral health problems. Just as it’s important to start healthy eating habits at a young age, the same holds true for good oral hygiene. If it’s been a while since your child has been to the dentist, or if they’ve not been coming in for twice-yearly checkups and cleanings, call our office and let us help. We wish you and your family the best when it comes to all aspects of your health!