As children progress through their education, they gain the knowledge and skill to choose healthy meals and snacks. They learn to read labels on food items, how many calories are contained in foods, what kinds of nutrients are present, the effects of unhealthy eating habits, and healthy alternatives to those foods. They become better at making healthy choices at home and at the local grocery store. And by the end of high school, when they participate in college entrance exams, their scores show the importance of a balanced nutrition education.
Why is nutrition education so important? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Nutritional education teaches young children the importance of eating well and getting enough nutrients.” It helps them to see the value in eating whole grains and fruits and vegetables, as well as foods from animal sources such as fish, poultry, beef, and pork. Studies have shown that kids who participate in nutrition education tend to eat a healthier diet than kids who do not. They may also choose healthier foods, such as whole grain breads instead of white bread and soy milk instead of cow’s milk.
Nutrition education also helps kids understand why they should get their vitamins and other nutrients from their local grocery store instead of their neighborhood drugstore. For example, some kids don’t realize that certain vitamins can only be taken after a specific amount of time, such as those required for lactating mothers, infants, and young children. Another common misunderstanding among kids is that the cost of food, like the price of eggs or the price of milk, makes it less expensive to buy the food in their local grocery store.
These are just a few examples of food misconceptions that nutrition education helps overcome. More often, food is associated with weight gain and bad health. When you start to understand nutrition, you’ll see that the food pyramid and its recommendations for food intake don’t always match up.
Weight gain is usually caused by poor nutrition. In particular, the lack of fiber in the diet contributes to the problem. If kids don’t have enough fiber in their diets, they will experience constipation and lose weight. In addition, if they don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, they may not be getting all the nutrients in their diets, which they need to keep their bones strong and to prevent osteoporosis.
It’s a good idea to get some nutrition education about how to avoid these problems before you start to snack regularly, especially in school. It’s also a good idea to check with your school’s nutrition department to make sure that your child’s cafeteria has a healthy menu. If your child eats lunch in a cafeteria, ask to have a look at the menus first hand and make sure that they have a menu that includes the food groups recommended by the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Even though schools are allowed to vary the nutritional information in the menus on a per-child basis, it’s still better to consult with the nutritionist.
Health education doesn’t mean that you have to give up your favorite foods or cut out everything that your child enjoys fitting a plan. You can still include them as long as they’re healthy. Just remember to include a healthy balance of foods that will keep your kids healthy.