Written by Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy Friday, 26 March 2010 00:00
The key to a healthy lifestyle is a healthy diet. That is why each March we take time to recognize National Nutrition Awareness Month. This month is the perfect opportunity to remember to get five servings a day of fruits and vegetables.
It can be challenging to make sure our children are aware of the fundamentals of proper nutrition. With hectic schedules and financial constraints, many families also find it challenging to ensure children receive healthy foods.
As a longtime nurse and chairwoman of the Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee, I believe it is important that we examine practices which can help increase access to child nutrition programs and to more healthy food for our children in schools. Given the current harsh financial realities for many families in my district and throughout the nation, schools have an increasingly important role to play since they provide students with more than 50 percent of their food and nutrient intake on school days. Children who regularly eat breakfast have better standardized test scores, better behavior, and were less hyperactive than children who skipped breakfast. There is also a surplus of data that indicates that well-nourished students perform better throughout the day and are less likely to become obese.
For all of us, the reality is that when you skip breakfast, you’re more likely to skip fruits and vegetables the rest of the day, too. We need to change that behavior, since we know that the way to a healthy future is establishing healthy eating habits early in our young people. This instruction can be done as a family. If families try to eat meals together at least once or twice a week, they can improve children’s food habits since kids tend to eat more fruits, vegetables and dairy foods at meals shared with their parents.
The earlier we establish good habits in our children, the more likely they will carry these habits into adulthood, which will reduce obesity and other chronic diseases throughout our nation.