While I no longer have kids in high school, the school lunch issue has my attention. I can’t help but think that the new directives that have come down from the USDA is missing the mark.
We all need to pay attention to the calories we take in on any given day. The quality of those calories must also be taken into account. If I were to eat a 500 calorie meal of Twinkies and soda, I don’t think I would feel as good as if I ate a 500 calorie meal of meat, potatoes, vegetables, and milk. Our bodies were designed to require nutrients found in the foods we eat. Our bodies were also designed to move.
I have been wearing an electronic pedometer for the past few weeks. I thought that I was being fairly active, but I have had many days where I cannot seem to reach the 10,000 step goal for the day. I don’t work in an office where I have to walk from a parking lot, into the building, and up a couple flights of stairs to my desk. My computer is 14 steps from my bed, three steps from the kitchen table, and five steps to the meal prep area. Not a lot of calorie burning going on in my mornings. I have to be very deliberate to get exercise in, or I will gain weight.
So, what about just controlling the amount of calories in? I tried that. I was thinner, but I wasn’t healthier. My triglyceride levels were still higher than my doctor wanted them, and I was borderline anemic. I was also a wimp. I couldn’t run as much as I wanted to because I didn’t have the stamina or muscle tone to endure a good workout. When I started exercising with the calorie control, I felt so much better.
This is where I feel the nutrition guidelines are missing the mark. We need to encourage healthy eating, but we also need to be encouraging physical movement. There is a great program, called Fuel Up to Play 60, which is sponsored by the National Dairy Council and the NFL. Click here to see what they are about. This program encourages healthy eating, and 60 minutes of exercise a day. They teach nutrition – the why of eating healthy – and make exercise fun. To see what makes them different, click here. This is a program model that I think would be a better way to address the childhood obesity issue than the nutrition standards that the schools are dealing with now.
There is one more area where I think we should focus on. Our school district has 175 student contact days. That leaves 190 days when the students are at home. For the students that eat both breakfast and lunch at school, they will eat 350 meals with calorie restrictions. Those same students will be eating 745 meals outside of school. We are sorely mistaken if we think that calorie restrictions at school are going to solve the obesity issue.
I loved running around my neighborhood when I was a kid. I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis in the ’70’s and ’80’s. We played outside all summer, riding our banana seat bikes, playing H-O-R-S-E, and playing various forms of tag….along with tormenting the siblings then running like crazy to escape the wrath. We didn’t have home video games then. Is it any wonder that obesity rates have increased after the home video games and computers became household objects? We need to move. We need to make exercise a lifelong habit, starting at a young age…and as parents, we need to be setting a good example.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite workout songs on my iPod….