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Will The New USDA Rules For School Meals Help With Childhood Obesity?

The United States Department of Agriculture announced on Wednesday its new rules for school lunches which go into effect July 1rst, and be phased in over a three year period.

This move is being applauded by many individuals as a way to counter youth obesity in this country. Look, I’m ALL about tackling poor nutrition with school lunches and working to resolve this serious problem we have with rising obesity rates (now at about 17% of US children).

But are these new rules really going to do much of anything?

Let’s take a look and you can make your own determination.

With politics and special interest groups playing a role in these matters I understand sweeping change is going to be tough to come by. In the name of compromise there’s not a lot that really gets to the root of the problem with these half-hearted attempts for change.

Controversy broke out early on in this campaign when Congress decided that two tablespoons of tomato sauce was good enough to categorize a slice of pizza as a vegetable.

Are you kidding me?

Why do you think that happened? You can’t tell me that somehow educated men and women really believe that pizza is a vegetable. Of course not, there was undoubtedly push back from special interest groups (vendors with contracts to provide school lunches) just to take a wild guess.

If we want to get serious about improving the nutrition in our school lunches and meals, drastic measures are the only way it will get done.

Under the new guidelines children will simply be presented with more options on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains for example. That’s good but this means we’re expecting them to make healthier choices simply because they’re available. Really?

How about significantly limiting the options on junk foods and merely providing menus with healthy whole foods. The critics say children simply won’t eat healthy foods. Given the option they’re probably right. This is exactly why these new mandates probably won’t accomplish a whole lot at the end of the day.

I’m happy to see some change but I’m skeptical on the impact it will have on changing unhealthy eating habits in our children.

In private and charter schools that have took measures into their own hands and provided ONLY healthy whole foods as lunch options, the students don’t end up starving. A magical thing happens when their options are limited, they eat what’s made available to them!

This whole lame excuse that kids won’t eat healthy meals doesn’t hold water. Of course most kids will choose french fries over a baked potato when presented with the option. But believe me, they’ll go for the baked potato sooner or later when they’re hungry and the french fries are no longer on the “menu.”

Early reports from public schools across the country where changes have already been initiated show a sign of things to come. The Los Angeles Times reported in December that students have trashed the untouched healthier meals and started a booming underground market for junk food. Cafeteria workers in Chicago public schools reported that kids were not eating the healthy meals.

Does this mean we’re doomed to never get our children to eat healthy meals? Of course not!

You have to expect such backlash from kids being raised on processed and refined junk foods. The question is whether or not we have the backbone and fortitude to stick with the battle long enough without caving into the cries for the junk food to come back?

The bottom line is we’re not going to solve this problem with wishful thinking that kids will all of sudden make grown up decisions when presented with options. They won’t.

Now don’t get me wrong, we’re moving in the right direction and it’s good to see we’ve woken up to the fact we can’t keep feeding our kids tater tots and fried chicken strips.

I know it’s wishful thinking on my part but I’d just like to see all the special interest crap be taken out of the equation and let the schools be empowered to do what’s best for the health and productivity of the students.

Make no mistakes this is going to be a battle to get our kids to eat healthier but it’s a battle we must be committed to stay in until it’s won. It won’t be easy but the stakes are too high not to take drastic measures.

Changing the attitude and habits of our children starts at home with the choices they’re provided with meals and snacks. Please don’t tell me that little Johnnie or Susie will only eat potato chips, drink sodas, or what have you.

Sure, when they’re raised on junk foods and sweets what do you expect? But I’ve got news for you kids have enormous appetites and when they get hungry enough they’ll eat what’s made available to them. When fruits, nuts, seeds, and the like are the only things available in the pantry they’ll eat them sooner or later.

Put a piece of fruit next to a Little Debbie snack cake and give a kid raised on sweets and junk food with the option, they’ll go for the snack cake every time.

I’m sure I’m going to get negative feedback for being heavy handed and maybe overly simplistic with my position on this but so be it. I care too much for the health of our children and that of our society as a whole to ignore the obvious and cow-tail to the demands of a sugar addicted child.

Sometimes the truth hurts and the reality is as adults we’re to blame for this problem and not the kids. Whether as parents, policy makers, or family members, we have the responsibility to set the right examples for children and guide their choices.

You can’t totally stop a kid from getting access to junk food or sweets, but you can sure as heck not make it easy for them by bringing it into the home.

We’re moving in the right direction, I just hope we’re committed for the long-haul in this battle.

Common sense and old school values seem to be fading in our society in favor of individual choice for children. I don’t know how much more we need to see before we realize this isn’t going to work very well.

We need to be “raising” the youth of our nation and not being their best friends or treating them like adults. The greatest gift we can give our children is health. Rob them of that and we take away their most precious asset.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston fitness trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides personal fitness programs with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. You can receive a FREE, no-obligations (2) session personal training trial and consultation to experience the difference for yourself.

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Category: Shane's Commentary.