FoodDay2014_poster_11x17_new2small-page-001You’re already doing a lot to make healthy eating happen at home. But you might feel helpless when it comes to your kids’ school. Children spend 35-plus-hours at school every week, eating up to two meals (and maybe even a snack) there. That makes it a natural setting for learning about and experiencing food. Good food. The kind that doesn’t come in a plastic wrapper. Here are 12 ways you can take action in your child’s school to make that happen:

1. Volunteer to bring a fruit tray or fruit salad to the next class party or school event. The simple “fruit rainbow” I brought to my son’s preschool class was a huge hit and was quickly gobbled up.

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2. Join a PTA committee that plans events and fundraisers and lobby for healthier options. For example, could a cookie dough fundraiser be swapped for a Florida citrus sale? Could the PTA adopt a “water only” drink policy for all school events? Could students get slices of watermelon instead of snow cones on the last day of school?

3. Ask your child’s teacher about taking a field trip to tour a local farm, farmer’s market, or natural foods market. Some farms and markets have special programming just for schools–and your children’s teachers may have health-related topics they need to cover as part of their curriculum (that’s a win-win!). Last year, my son’s kindergarten teachers arranged a class visit to a farm to learn about maple sugaring, then they all returned in the spring to see how bees make honey.

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4. Celebrate your child’s birthday by donating a book to the classroom that teaches a lesson about food (two of my favorites are Yoko and Bread & Jam for Frances). Babble.com has a list of 10 books for a Healthy Food Attitude.

5. See if your child’s teacher would be open to having a farmer or chef visit the classroom and talk about how food is grown or prepared.

6. Get to know your school’s foodservice team. Thank them for their work. Ask questions. Find out how decisions are made. Be polite and gracious.

7. Volunteer to talk to your child’s class about food and nutrition. Super Healthy Kids has simple lesson plans for all grade levels.

8. Join your school’s wellness committee (or start one) and work on programming that gets students excited about healthy habits (read: “School Wellness Programs That Rock“).

9. Find out if your child’s school takes part in Farm to School, a national movement to source more foods locally and to provide educational activities to students that emphasize food, farming, and nutrition. The USDA provides a toolkit to “grow your own” program.

DSC_112810. If the school allows outside food, organize parents to do tastings. Have kids sample different kinds of apples and make a bar graph of the class favorites. Bring your blender and whip up green smoothies with spinach and fruit. Let kids mash avocadoes into guacamole they scoop up with chips. Get advice from School Bites in this post, Tips for Starting a Preschool Cooking Class.

11. Does your child get a snack every day in class or at a school after-care program? If you’re not happy with the quality of the snack, talk to the teacher or staff about possibilities. Here’s a huge list of snack ideas from CSPI.

12. If your school has a garden, pitch in to help. If they don’t, could they start with a raised bed or containers? Whole Foods’ Whole Kids Foundation has lots of resources for making a case for a school garden, designing a garden, recruiting volunteers, and developing activities around it.

I wrote this post as part of a coordinated blogging event for Food Day. Held every October 24th, Food Day is designed to inspire Americans to change their diets for the better and to improve food policies. Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), it’s a day to resolve to make changes to your own diet and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level.

Visit the following blogs written by other authors participating in Food Day’s first-ever Coordinated Blogging Event:

Food Day

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How I Handle Halloween Candy Craziness

by Sally on October 15, 2014

How I Handle Halloween Candy Craziness by Real Mom NutritionMy name is Sally. I’m a dietitian. And I hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.

In the past, I’ve doled out bags of pretzels, small tubs of Play-Doh, and sheets of stickers too (and see nothing wrong with going that route). But mostly, we hand out candy. Usually chocolate.

If you’re a regular on this blog, you know I can get riled up about junk food. Especially when it’s on the sidelines of kids’ sports every weekend (read: Soccer Mom Soapbox). I’m that mom calling the summer camp director to ask about switching from Powerade to water. I’m the lady stopping at the front desk of the rec center to chat about the junk in the vending machine. I even advocate for healthier school Halloween parties.

Yet when it comes to trick-or-treating, I’m cool with candy. Why? Because I think it’s okay to celebrate some occasions with food. (If goodies aren’t handed out every day for made-up special occasions like t-ball practice, it’s easier to do this.)

But I also know that trick-or-treating can spiral into candy craziness, so here’s how I make it work in our house:

1.  I wait until the very last minute to buy candy. Ideally, I’m at the store at 3pm on the day of trick-or-treating. Once upon a time, I made the tragic error of buying Halloween candy in advance, which of course meant we ate it, bought more, ate that, and bought more.

2. I give my kids free reign. We eat dinner before trick-or-treating, then all bets are off. They can eat as much as they want, which often comes with its own handy life lesson: If you eat too many sweets, sometimes your belly hurts and you feel gross.

3. I play the Switch Witch. After my kids return home to dump and sort their stash, they reserve a pile of their favorites. The rest (the stuff they don’t like or don’t like very much) goes into a bowl on the dining room table. While they’re sleeping, the Switch Witch arrives to take the candy and replace it with a toy or game. This is optional at my house. My kids aren’t forced to turn over their candy, and last year they kept a pretty sizeable amount. I know not everyone is a fan of the Switch Witch (read Red, Round or Green’s take in this post, “Switching Off“). But I like that this fun tradition teaches them to value what they like best–but not waste time on the stuff they don’t, simply because it’s there. In our culture of omni-present junk, that’s a useful skill.

4. I put them in charge of their stash. In our house, we have a one-treat-a-day policy which works most of the time. You can have your treat whenever you want: in your lunchbox, after school, after dinner, even WITH dinner. My two boys’ Halloween candy is kept in separate bags in a cupboard they can access. We decide together what a reasonable portion is (usually a fun-size bar or two small pieces of candy) and they serve themselves. They don’t obsess. There’s no sneaking of candy.  (Well, sometimes I sneak a piece and get caught when one of them finds the wrapper in my office garbage can.)

So that’s how it’s done in our house because this seems to work well (for now at least!). You may do things differently, and that’s okay. You may toss out everything with artificial colors, only buy GMO-free goodies, or hand out temporary tattoos. Or maybe you’re that fabled house with the full size candy bars. By all means, do your own thing.

But if you sneak your kids’ candy, do a better job than me of hiding the evidence.

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Frustrated With Your Toddler? Read This!

October 8, 2014

In June, I posted a giveaway for the new book Tools for the Toddler Years, co-authored by parenting educator Yvonne Gustafson (aka Dr. Y). I asked you to leave a comment about the biggest parenting challenge you were having with your toddler. Dr. Y read all of your comments and asked if she could reach out with some words of reassurance […]

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My Number One Trick For Eating Right

October 6, 2014

I don’t have the stamina for junk food anymore. As a kid, I could suck on Sour Patch Kids until my tongue was raw. I could wash down greasy pizza and Cheetos with a Cherry Coke and be no worse for the wear. These days, a donut for breakfast would send me crawling back to bed in a sugared […]

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I Tried It: Juicing

October 2, 2014

I’ve been a smoothie girl for a long time. I make one nearly every day for breakfast and pack my Vitamix when I go on vacation. But I’ve also been intrigued by juicing. Like everyone else who watched the documentary “Fat Sick & Nearly Dead“, I wanted to run out and buy a top-of-the-line juicer immediately. But […]

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Want Healthier Soccer Sidelines? Use These FREE Resources For Coaches & Parents

September 30, 2014

Coaches are role models, and they set the tone for the season. They also play a critical role in getting junk food and sugary drinks off the sidelines of youth sports. When I’ve taken my Snacktivism mission to the coaches of my children’s teams, I’ve been grateful that they’ve all been on board (read: “THAT Mom: The Sequel“). I was […]

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Feeding Baby: Cookbook & Giveaway

September 26, 2014

I didn’t make my kids’ baby food. I feel like I should be attending some kind of support group with that confession. Back when I had my babies, I wasn’t making nearly as much homemade food as I am now. And frankly, figuring out how to juggle motherhood with my job and everything else in my life […]

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Free Meal Planning Worksheet

September 23, 2014

Meal planning is a gift that keeps on giving. Spending 5-10 minutes on it at the beginning of the week means no more 5:30 “what’s-for-dinner??” angst. A crucial step in meal planning is food shopping. I make my week’s dinner menus and grocery list at the same time. That way, I can avoid last minute trips to […]

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{Recipe} Peanut Butter Breakfast Shake

September 16, 2014

Breakfast is not my fifth grader’s favorite meal of the day. (My first grader, on the other hand, practically jumps directly from his bed into a seat at the kitchen island with a spoon in his hand.) I invented this breakfast shake one morning to sweeten the deal. It’s something fun and filling. I also love that it’s […]

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I Wish Red Delicious Apples Would Just Go Away

September 12, 2014

I am sick of Red Delicious apples. Specifically, I am sick of Red Delicious apples being passed off as actual apples when really, they’re just very attractive props. Red Delicious apples, with their chewy skin and mealy flesh, are the most common apple in America, grown and sold more than any other variety. Thanks to years of breeding, the […]

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