Most American kids dont go hungry for long.
Obesity among school-age children is epidemic, threatening the health and longevity of an entire generation. We need urgent action to reverse the trend.
Thats why public health efforts now target schools as places to model healthy eating habits while providing children with a nutritious meal during the school day. The latest round of changes to school-meal regulations includes upper limits for calories at lunch.
Those limits vary by age group. For high school students, the amount is set at 850 calories.
Its enough food but not too much.
But while were teaching kids how to push back from the table before theyre too full, this new regulation is getting some pushback of its own from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) who opposes calorie limits on school meals. King has introduced legislation that would remove the calorie caps.
Resistance is not surprising when you consider the number of food industry stakeholders who stand to lose financially if we eat less food.
Truth is, the new upper calorie limit on school lunch isnt so strict. The 850-calorie limit is actually slightly more than what most high school students take.
However, the fuss over food begs the question: How much do any of us really need at one sitting?
Learning to stop before youre stuffed is a good habit to encourage.
Besides, theres nothing wrong with getting a little hungry between meals. In fact, most kids are ready for a snack when they get home at the end of the day.
Thats a good time for a piece of fresh fruit something light but filling to hold them until suppertime.
The scene played out at my house just last week. My 9-year-old niece was visiting over the weekend, and in the late afternoon, she announced to everyone within earshot, Im hungry.
My husband held up a mottled, ripe banana. The offer was met with silence, followed by no, thank you.
I followed up with a sliced apple and a few strawberries. That was better. If shed refused that, too, I would have known she wasnt really hungry.
Calorie caps at school make sense. Start young and work at stopping at full enough. And keep healthful snacks on hand for when the hungry kids get home.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to email@example.com.