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The Sun-Times - Heber Springs, AR
  • Good nutrition means better school performance

  • You may send your child to school with a healthy lunch in hand, but your efforts may soon be sabotaged by junk food marketers where you least expect them—in your child's school.
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  • You may send your child to school with a healthy lunch in hand, but your efforts may soon be sabotaged by junk food marketers where you least expect them—in your child's school. Many school hallways are lined with vending machines that sell soft drinks and unhealthy snacks, and most school cafeterias serve any number of fast foods each day.
    It is common for schools to make marketing deals with leading soft drink companies such as Coca-Cola from which they receive commissions—and sometimes a lump-sum payment. The revenues are used for various academic and after-school activities, but what activity could be worth undermining the students' health, which is exactly what consuming all that soda and junk food is doing? Getting rid of vending machines in schools—or replacing their contents with pure water and healthy snacks—could make a big difference, as vending machines can increase the consumption of sweetened beverages by up to 50 or more cans of soda per student per year.
    In a few situations, parents will rest assured that their children will not be given sugary snacks that are laced with artificial colorings and preservatives. Some schools have done away with soft drink machines in an effort to improve the health of youngsters.
    These days when we are learning that diet is probably the most contributing factor to our most deadly diseases, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, some teachers are taking it upon themselves to incorporate nutrition education into other units of study. One prime motivation has been the noticeable changes in behavior in students who eat better food. Teachers have enough challenges without having to deal with children exhibiting off-the-wall behavior because of a junk food diet.
    Unfortunately, such progressive teachers are still in the minority. Even though it is known that people learn better and are better behaved when good health habits are established, there is a reluctance to make changes. It is important that parents express their feelings on such important subjects. Most teachers are sincerely interested in the well-being of children. Perhaps they have somehow missed the articles and books that have been written about the detrimental effects of sugar and other junk foods upon learning and behavior. In such cases, it becomes the duty of informed parents to supply them with such information. Teachers usually welcome changes that can help them have a quiet, pleasant classroom. After they have learned of the impact that foods can have, it is likely that intelligent teachers will join the parents in an effort to make improvements.
    Because these have been subjects of small concern in most school systems, we have been nutritional illiterates and the results have proven disastrous. Sickness has become the norm rather than the exception.
    It is time informed lay people get into the act of education concerning, health and nutrition. Those who are becoming aware of the need for improved diets are generally the ordinary people. Medical professionals seldom promote health and the prevention of disease. They are kept busy trying to patch up malnourished, underexercised bodies. Lay people must take charge of their own health and the education of others.
    Page 2 of 2 - Practical suggestions for school snacks might include sunflower seeds (the big league ball players eat them), nuts, peanuts, popcorn, crisp raw vegetables, roasted soybeans, fresh fruits. When cookies or cupcakes are requested, a nutrition-conscious parent can use whole grains and other nutritious ingredients instead of white flour and sugar.
    Nutrition knowledge has been likened to climbing a mountain – the higher we climb, the more we see. We simply need to begin the climb. Once we get past the point of eating for emotional reasons, or prejudices against those foods which build health, we can start taking in foods for nourishment. Early training of children as to what is the real purpose of the food we eat is one of the most constructive steps we can take in insuring that they will not suffer the degenerative problems becoming so prevalent in our society.
    Dr. Joseph Mercola, author of the book TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR HEALTH, writes, "The future health of our country is clearly related to having our children eat healthy. If we want to save them incredible needless grief and suffering then it would be wise to encourage them to eat properly." Homes and schools are the places to start.
    A reader reports that she has seen considerable improvement in her arthritis symptoms since she began following the Childers' dietary program that eliminates plants in the nightshade family – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. This requires a lot of self discipline this time of year when these delicious vegetables are so plentiful. However, feeling good the best motivator.
    (Janice Norris lives in Heber Springs, has a B.S. in home economics from Murray State University, taught home economics, owned and operated health food stores in Illinois and Heber Springs, has taught numerous health and nutrition classes, and wrote a weekly newspaper column in Illinois for 15 years. She can be reached at janicenorris34@yahoo.com)

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