Home => Newsletters => April 19, 2006 • Family Meals Focus Special Edition #1 • Child overweight in the schools
April 19, 2006
FAMILY MEALS FOCUS SPECIAL EDITION #1
Interpreting the news and research about feeding and eating
Child overweight in the schools
In early April, a bipartisan group in Congress introduced an amendment to the National School Lunch Act prohibiting sales of all fatty or sugary foods, including soft drinks, on school premisesin cafeterias, vending machines, school stores, snack bars and at fund-raisers. Many states and municipalities have already enacted such regulations. In the zeal to strip schools of calories, don't forget to compensate with nourishing, enjoyable and well-timed
that fill children up. Making slimming children down the priority of school nutrition programs distorts its true mission: providing children with the nutrients and energy they need to be healthy and grow well physically, emotionally, socially and mentally. Children who don't get enough to eat gain more weight, do poorly academically and have poor social skills.1
Think twice about consequences Restrictive interventions are more likely to hurt than to help. As emphasized in
FMF #6 and
standard early-intervention approaches perceiving a child as overweight, being concerned about it, and restricting a child's food intake make children fatter, not thinner.2,3 Children who are forbidden to have sweets and high-fat snacks eat more of them even when they are already full and are fatter than children given regular access.4 As demonstrated by three huge, highly funded interventions, tight controls on school menus leave children's overweight status unchanged. Children apparently compensate elsewhere for restrictions at school.5-7
Don't wreck a good thing Every school nutrition program is mandated to provide 1/3 of a child's daily nutritional requirement at lunch, 1/4 at breakfast. And they do it, on budgets so tight they squeak. Current funding is so low that school cafeterias are forced to sell ala carte foods to keep themselves afloat. Does congress's heightened concern extend to increasing funding for school nutrition programs?
Emphasize providing, not depriving8 Maintain the structure of meals and snacks so children can count on getting fed,and fed enough. Restrict between-meal drinks, munchies and treats,even nutritious ones,to structured snacks so children can go to lunch hungry and ready to eat. Provide nutritious and filling sit-down snacks midmorning and midafternoon for kindergarten and first grade children. Retain food-selection leadership with middle school children, who are still forming their food habits, by keeping ala carte foods off the lunch lines. Give high-schoolers choices and opportunities to experiment with all kinds of foods, but hold the line with rules about where in the school food is allowed. In their natural quest for autonomy, adolescents get around rigid rules and controlling grownups. Forbidden-food black markets spring up in high schools that try to tightly control the food environment.9
Make school nutrition an important part of the program day. Schedule meals when children are hungry and give them enough time to eat. Offer meals that are adequate in energy for all children. Offer extra helpings of low-cost foods like breads and other starchy foods to fill children up. Offer school breakfast for children who don't get fed at home.
Do good parenting with high-sugar, high-fat food Give regular access to treats�at school and at home,by including snack-type food at regular, sit-down meals and snacks. Avoid either extreme of forbidding snack-type food or drinks or letting children graze on them. Forbidding high-fat, high-sugar foods gives them enormous appeal and in the long run makes children eat more, not less. For more information for parents about optimum feeding to help children grow up to get bodies that are right for them, see
Your Child's Weight: Helping Without Harming.
1. Jyoti DF, Frongillo EA, Jones SJ. Food Insecurity Affects School Children's Academic Performance, Weight Gain, and Social Skills. J. Nutr. 2005;135:2831-2839.
2. Faith MS, Berkowitz RI, Stallings VA, Kerns J, Storey M, Stunkard AJ. Parental Feeding Attitudes and Styles and Child Body Mass Index: Prospective Analysis of a Gene-Environment Interaction. Pediatrics. 2004;114:e429-436.
3. Faith MS, Scanlon KS, Birch LL, Francis LA, Sherry B. Parent-Child Feeding Strategies and Their Relationships to Child Eating and Weight Status. Obes Res. 2004;12:1711-1722.
4. Fisher JO, Birch LL. Eating in the absence of hunger and overweight in girls from 5 to 7 y of age . American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2002;76:226-231.
5. Donnelly JE, Jacobsen DJ, Whatley JE, et al. Nutrition and physical activity program to attenuate obesity and promote physical and metabolic fitness in elementary school children. Obesity Research. 1996;4:229-243.
6. Luepker RV, Perry CL, McKinlay SM, et al. Outcomes of a field trial to improve children's dietary patterns and physical activity. The Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health. CATCH collaborative group. Journal of the American Medical Association. 1996;275:768-76.
7. Caballero B, Clay T, Davis SM, et al. Pathways: a school-based, randomized controlled trial for the prevention of obesity in American Indian schoolchildren. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;78(5):1030-1038.
8. Satter EM; Appendix G, Feeding and parenting in the school setting. Your Child's Weight---Helping Without Harming. Madison, WI: Kelcy Press; 2005:409-418.
9. Hellmich N. Health movement has school cafeterias in a food fight. USA Today. August 24, 2005.
Family Meals Focus by Ellyn Satter, MS, RD, LCSW, BCD. discusses trends, research and clinical issues in eating and feeding and interprets other research from a feeding-dynamics, eating-competence perspective. For past issues of Family Meals Focus, click
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Copyright © 2006 Ellyn Satter
Copyright © 2012 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com.
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