Time to set aside the math books, novels, science textbooks, and history documents and learn about nutrition education.
Time to set aside the math books, novels, science textbooks, and history documents and learn about nutrition education.

Are schools doing enough to teach kids about nutrition?

Teaching kids nutrition the right way is a vital part of them living healthy lifestyles and developing health habits that they can apply all their life.

February 7, 2022

Nutrition education in the States is going backwards and nobody is doing anything to fix that.

For many years we have been debating whether or not nutrition education in the United States should be improved upon. The short answer is YES, but nobody has acted on this issue and we continue to see problems with kids’ nutrition.

Schools play an important role in students’ health. Teachers can establish healthy eating habits as well as a healthy lifestyle. In order to do this, schools need to provide healthy and nutritious food and drink, consistent and accurate messages about nutrition, and new ways to learn and practice healthy eating.

Nutrition education is a vital part of our kids’ lives and providing them with the right tools to make the right choices down the road will lead to them being healthier and happier.

Schools are not taking the proper measures to allow kids to live the healthiest life possible.

The base of the problem is that schools are not teaching students enough nutrition education. According to the CDC, “US students receive less than 8 hours of required nutrition education each school year far below the 40 to 50 hours that are needed to affect behavior change. Additionally, the percentage of schools providing required instruction on nutrition and dietary behaviors decreased from 84.6% to 74.1% between 2000 and 2014”

Playing games can be a fun and easy way to teach some nutrition!

Diet plays an important role in preventing long term health side effects. Given this fact, schools should dedicate more time to nutrition education to make sure that students can live healthy. Research has shown that students who are taught proper nutrition education realize that the food they eat can have a positive impact on them if they choose the right options. They also realize that it can improve their mental wellbeing, not just their physical one and that this leads to more healthy food choices down the road.

The prevalence of obesity was 19.3% and affected about 14.4 million children and adolescents.”

— CDC

While there are many challenges of teaching nutrition education, such as: competing academic expectations, lack of available time, and lack of suitable curricula. This is not enough to totally disregard the fact that students need to be taught about nutrition. Obesity is a big problem in the US and nutrition education could be at the core of the problem. We need to fix it in order to create a better community.

Healthy eating habits start in the classroom, if we can ingrain them kids will live a better lifestyle.

Nutrition education has also proven to be harmful. Some nutrition and education experts think teaching kids nutrition has begun to harm kids rather than help them. Family physician, author, and childhood feeding expert Dr. Katja Rowell says, “harmful, anxiety-inducing ‘health’ advice is everywhere.” Rowell states, “dangerous messages permeate every class, from official assignments to offhand comments or ‘wisdom’ teachers share. A second grader was told by a teacher that sugar is more ‘addictive’ than narcotics. A reading assignment asks a child to circle ‘bad’ foods. A teacher shares her bulimia history in detail with middle school girls, which research shows is risky.” Rowell, along with other nutrition experts, are worried about harmful nutrition and health education. They are under the impression that nutrition education needs to change now.

It is important to teach kids the RIGHT things in order to establish good habits.

Teachers are not being taught to teach nutrition education properly. Many educators continue to discuss weight regardless of the fact that in 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics published new guidelines for pediatricians that recommend against discussing weight with children.

Teachers continue to compare kids’ weight when talking about nutrition. This leads to a lose/lose situation. Kids in school are still growing and a big contributor to their weight is what stage of puberty they are in. Comparing two kids of different maturity is highly inaccurate and teachers should not be discussing such things with students, this is their doctor’s job.

While nutrition education does need to be taught it needs to be done in a different way that doesn’t necessarily focus on weight, but the students’ needs.

The next problem with nutrition education is that kids are not being served the right foods that coincide with the foods they are being taught to eat. In short, even schools with the best nutrition education have the problem of students not being able to choose the healthy options they should be choosing.

“School lunches hardly resemble real food — they serve items such as chicken nuggets, which are highly processed, with additives and preservatives, and list more than 30 ingredients instead of just chicken,” says Marion Nestle, Ph.D., professor of nutrition food studies and public health at New York University. And nuggets are just one example of this!

School lunches are typically not what students are being told to eat.

School lunches are high-fat, high-sodium, and low-fiber meals that do not reinforce what kids are being taught in the classroom. Simply, in order to make kids actually do what they are being taught we need to serve them the right foods, so they can eat foods we are telling them to eat.

If the long term health effects that a bad diet can have on someone aren’t bad enough to not have good nutrition education, then maybe we don’t need to be teaching it, but with problems like obesity it is hard to agree with that statement. Schools need to grow and begin to teach better nutrition in order for students to live healthier lifestyles that they can continue to live for the rest of their lives.

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