I have been quite busy with life as of late, and have not had much of a chance to sit down and formulate a decent blog post in a while. With being back at college for a career change, my priorities lately have simply been to keep up with the ever changing schedule. I finished second semester of college strong with another 4.0 GPA, all A's (Yes, I am a high achiever - though occasionally I do have to employ the use of spell check.) Summer semester started a few weeks ago and I am going through a writing course that is required for me to complete my major. I'm enjoying the class so far and we have had some very interesting discussions which incidentally has led to this blog post. The professor asked us to complete a writing prompt on a subject of our choice, to which I chose "Food Choices for Children and How It Affects Their Behavior."
Any nutritionist will tell you that good food choices are essential to maintaining a healthy body. Children need good nutrition. Often, the only balanced nutrition they receive is through the school lunch program. Nutritionists work directly with the schools in order to balance the menu so that the students are getting the optimal nutrients for their age group. Even the White House is getting involved when it comes to providing adequate nutrition education to children. Where this process breaks down is when the children are at home. Many low income families receive food stamps, welfare, or other types of government assistance in order to keep a roof over their heads. These programs provide just enough for families to squeak by, but their food choices are limited to what they can afford.
Coming on the summer season, a lot of schools will begin offering summer nutrition programs for children under 18 years of age. They can come to the school and eat breakfast and lunch for free, or the food is delivered to sites that are set up for distribution. For many parents, this program alleviates some of the stress that is placed on them to provide for their children while still allowing the children to receive the nutrition they need.
How do food choices become a behavior issue? Well many of the foods that have low nutritional value like cereals, pasta, cookies, chips, and canned goods are usually lower in price than healthier choices like meats, vegetables, and fruits. Due to the tighter budget from being on assistance, parents will often stock up on the more inexpensive items listed above rather than ones that can provide adequate nutrition. It doesn't help that a lot of the poor nutritional foods tend to market to children by way of cartoon characters, added sugar, and the promise of a toy "prize". A fair amount of children are on medication to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but no one stops to consider what these children are eating on a regular basis that may contribute to their hyperactivity. Sugar is not always bad, but should be consumed in moderation. When children consume too much of something, they will experience a rush, which can promote poor behavior choices.
Every day on the bus, I see children climb the steps with all sorts of junk in their hands such as sodas, candy, chips, sweetened snack cakes, or cinnamon buns. It's no wonder that later in the day or further on in the ride on the bus, these children become more active and can act out inappropriately. Sugar can have affect the body in many different ways. The behavior is also linked to certain food dyes which is found in many foods. Food will have hidden sources of sugar too, which again leads to behavior displays.
What can we do? Educate! Educate! Educate!
Offering free classes for parents on a budget will help these parents make better food choices when shopping, and hopefully in turn will help them teach their children positive nutrition. Medication can only go so far in helping children. Proper nutrition is key.
An Apple A Day,
The Bus Driver