Students Vote With Their Feet and Say NO to Healthy Cafeteria Food

Students Vote With Their Feet and Say NO to Healthy Cafeteria Food

What did you eat at school when you were a kid? Times are certainly a’ changing if the latest news reports from Canada are anything to go by. Apparently schools in the Windsor-Essex area are suffering as a result of the new food rules that came into force for school cafeterias late last year. This is a local story that applies to a specific area of Canada, of course, but it is part of a much wider story that is starting to become apparent in other countries as well.

Basically the crux of the matter is this – provincial rules were created in the case of the Windsor-Essex area that meant healthier foods had to be added to school menus to replace unhealthy ones that were already there. So out went the French fries (replaced with baked ones instead) and in came fruit and all manner of other healthy snacks.

Unfortunately the legislation did not account for the views of the students. After all no one forces the students to eat in the cafeteria. As it turns out attendance has declined sharply in the months since the new rules came into force last September. Since then students have decided that they need to go elsewhere to continue eating the same foods they were having at the cafeteria before.

What’s the deal with kids and healthy eating?

Oftentimes our eating habits are formed when we are kids – and I’m talking about being young kids here, not teenagers. I don’t know about you, but by the time I got to be a teenager I’d already figured out what I did and didn’t like and I already had habits that are still with me today.

Personally I think a love of junk food starts at a young age. How many kids do you see (toddler age, sitting in strollers) eating fast food bought for them by their parents? I never even had a burger until I was in my late teens, although part of that was due to the fact that we really never had the range and choice of burger joints that kids have today. The worst thing we ever did as kids was to sneak out of school and grab a serving of French fries – maybe once a month. It felt like a real treat but we never would have considered doing it on a daily basis. It just wasn’t something we were used to.

Okay I admit I may not be qualified to comment on how kids are brought up today. But I know that my mom and dad served up good home cooked meals every day and we’d all sit down and eat together. Sure we had home cooked fries from time to time but we never had them every day. And yes, we did eat our vegetables but it was never a big deal to do so. It’s just what we ate. And I’m pretty sure we didn’t have the ‘five a day’ thing drummed into us every day either. I think I’d remember if we did.

We definitely never had cafeterias where the food had to be healthy or else. How times change.

Will forcing the issue work?

I’m not the parent to any teenagers but I know people who are. And if there is one rule that pretty much applies to the majority of teenagers, it seems to be this – whatever you tell them they will probably want to do the exact opposite.

I can see how this legislation was meant to be well meaning and was done with the health of the kids in mind. But I’m an adult. I’m secure in my own skin and I know why they’re doing it. On the other hand the teenagers are at a very fragile stage in their lives. They’re at that stage where they’re forming their own opinions about things around them. They want to strike out on their own and make their own decisions too.

Sure, some kids will probably eat at the cafeterias affected by these rules and they’ll probably eat more healthily as a result. They might appreciate this new legislation and grow up better as well. But the majority of students will probably think it’s nothing more than interfering and being told what to do. And when kids are told what to do… well, we all know what can happen next, right?

I’m kinda surprised that the people behind this new legislation didn’t see this coming. Put rules and teenagers together and it’s never going to end like you think it will.

Banning certain types of foods only makes us want them more

If you’ve ever been on a diet you’ll probably have found that most of them tell you to ban certain foods. This could be anything from an entire food group – like carbs for example – to specific things like chocolate.

I’ve tried these diets before and believe me when I say the banning theory doesn’t work. It doesn’t work in diets and it doesn’t work in cafeterias either. When I’m told I cannot eat something – like chocolate for example – I just want it all the more. It’s like the teenager who is told what they can and cannot eat in the school cafeteria. I can totally understand why they’re heading elsewhere to get their burgers. They’re reacting against the rules being put in place by someone else. They’re reacting to someone else telling them “you can’t eat that. You shouldn’t be eating that.”

It’s interesting to note that the approach Paul McKenna uses in his “I Can Make You Thin” book and hypnosis program is to ban nothing. Literally NOTHING. You eat what you want to eat, when you are hungry for food. Just like I find with chocolate, if I know I can have it, I don’t want it anywhere near as often as I would if I knew it was ‘banned’.

This idea of everything in moderation is how we all used to eat many years ago. But we got out of the habit of doing it. It doesn’t take much to get the habit back again, and to be honest it’s the best way to live. Telling kids they must eat certain things and avoid some others is not the best way forward. This is panic – it’s a reaction to the obesity epidemic and it’s understandable, but it’s a kneejerk reaction and nothing more. Kids should be taught that nothing is bad in moderation. Moderation is the key word and it’s one we don’t hear often enough.

providing healthy choices alongside some favorites like burgers and fries

Would a more balanced approach work better in the long run?

I think it would. I’d like to see school cafeterias providing healthy choices alongside some favorites like burgers and fries too. Giving kids control is all part of the process. By choosing what they can and cannot eat we’re taking the control away from them. This will only lead to disaster in the long run.

We shouldn’t be making decisions for our kids. We should be educating them – after all isn’t that what school is all about? Of course they should know that too much junk food is bad for them if they eat it all the time. But you know what? They won’t suffer if they eat an occasional burger and fries instead of having lean turkey and vegetables for lunch. They might even embrace the idea of fresh natural foods and how to enjoy them more than they are at the moment.

We need to stop butting heads with these kids. Instead, we need to involve them in the process. We need to get them excited about food and show them just how amazing it is to cook your own versions of burgers and fries. Personally there is nothing better for me than to cook homemade oven chips – big chunks of fresh potato with a little olive oil and seasoning and cooked at a high temperature for the perfect crispness. No French fry can beat it.

If we just devoted some time to getting together on an even playing field with the kids of today, we could change our future. We could turn this obesity epidemic around, I’m sure of it.

Of course I could be wrong and the kids could suddenly realize how cool their new cafeteria is, thanks to the efforts of the food police…but somehow I don’t think that’s going to happen.

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Comments

  1. Interesting and informational

  2. When you are active and you exercise regularly, there is no need to deprive yourself of sweets or even some junk food splurges in moderation. When you are burning calories regularly, you can afford to splurge on your favorite treats without concern because you won’t become overweight. Exercise is the key. Experts say one hour a day, five to six times per week is sufficient. Schools should improve their fitness education and regimens and make 1 gym class mandatory.

    • Bleh! This is one stark reminder of all the gross things my niece tries to shove into my mouth. I love that she shares, but, No Thank You, you can have it!

  3. Truer words were never written about the natural reaction (that tendency to rebel) to stringent rules and deprivation. And I agree that moderation is the key to just about everything in life. Whether it be the consumption of wine or alcoholic beverages, marijuana, medications or food. I think the key is not to restrict teens from junk food, but to have a class in the curriculum dedicated to education on nutrition and fitness.

  4. I have seen news reports about a reform in public school cafeteria food in the United States. In Miami Beach high school, they improved the lunch menu and they even installed vending machines which sell healthy meals and snacks. Gone are the soda can machines. I think this movement is great and necessary. We need to save our future generations from the increasing prevalence of obesity and diabetes. This is a worldwide health risk we must eradicate.

  5. You can teach kids right from wrong in their eating just like you can in their behavior. They may not always make the right decisions but ultimately they will come back to what is right. I do think when you are educating them in this you need to show them the gross truth by using actual anatomy, let them see what it does on the inside as well as the outside.

  6. Antonette says:

    Trying to tell the kids what they can eat is not going to work, they are going to go other places to eat or they are going to start bringing what they want in their lunch. Is the school going to try and tell them what they can bring in their lunches now? You know that they’re going to bring junk and soda etc. but how can you tell them they can’t bring their lunch?

    • Most of the time I think our schools do a decent job of providing nutritious meals. I think there is a lot of variation on where you go as to what the school cafeteria might be serving.

      I wouldn’t ever want the option of taking a lunch from home to be taken away though.

      I agree vending machines should be banned. Schools have become too dependent on the revenue from vending machines, unfortunately.

  7. If people would teach their kids what to eat from the day they are born then there wouldn’t be a problem. If you raise a kid eating fruits and vegetables rather than cookies and candy then they will choose that stuff when the time comes. My son when he was growing up would rather have a salad or apple rather than cookies and candy.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I am a firm believer that the parents are to blame for what the kids eat now days and the fact that they are unhealthy and overweight. If kids are raised on the right foods from the beginning then they will make the right choices when they become teenagers. Moderation is also something that needs to be taught and it is something that I am learning to this day.

  9. What I see happening is the parents aren’t going to like the fact that you are trying to control what their kids eat either and the kids are going to start packing their lunches and bringing what they want or they are going to start going hungry because they don’t want was is being forced on them. It is far better to educate them then to try and force them to eat right.

  10. I think the idea of educating kids on what they should eat as opposed to what they do eat is a good idea then let them make the choices. But by educating them I mean show them what really happens to your body on the inside when you eat some of this stuff, don’t pull any punches. And it is the parents to blame for the way kids eat now days.




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