Kick Chips Out of the Classroom!
Kick Chips Out of the Classroom!
Empower your students to choose healthy snacks with classroom nutrition education

Snacking has been on the rise in past decades1, and many people have replaced three square meals with several small meals or constant grazing throughout the day.

Teachers say they've noticed a similar trend among their students, eating fewer balanced meals, opting instead for chips, candy and soda at school rather than a sandwich, apple and milk2.

But instead of wringing our hands, why not capitalize on the trend?

Teachers who use instructional time to teach their students about health and nutrition can go a step further and create healthy classroom policies that kick chips and soda out of the classroom, while making sure students have the proper fuel for learning throughout the day. Studies show that better nourished children are better learners, better grade earners and more socially adjusted than those who are not as well nourished3, so the effort is certainly worth it for teachers. Not teaching nutrition in the classroom yet? Learn more about the benefits of nutrition education here.

Snack foods tend to be nutrient poor, especially the kids are most attracted to. Chips, cookies, soda, bright-orange puffy corn snacks and candy offer a big calorie punch, but little in the way of vitamins and minerals. They also tend to be high in sugar, salt and fat4,5.

The USDA has told schools they can’t sell nutrient-poor snack foods with its Smart Snacks in School policy, but kids can still bring less-than-healthy snacks from home.

Some teachers are responding by setting up their own policies, that request parents to kick the chip habit and pack healthy snacks for the school day.

Kids tend to eat up to three snacks per day, accounting for about 27 percent of their overall daily calories4. But there’s no need to make snacking the culprit for poor nutrition. Snacking can be fun, and it can fit into an active, healthy lifestyle. With a few tips and some gentle nudging, kids can be noshing on snacks that maximize their nutrient intake throughout the day, giving them what they need to meet physical and academic challenges. 

Americans in general don’t get enough vitamin D, calcium, potassium or fiber, according to the latest Dietary Guidelines. The same report notes that kids tend to do okay nutritionally until they reach school age, making school the perfect place to improve snacks and teach kids about healthy eating. By teaching nutrition in the classroom with an emphasis on maximizing snacks, parents and teachers can turn those tables, and empower students to pack those necessary nutrients into healthy snacks for the school day.

And as an added bonus, teachers can say goodbye to bright orange finger prints all over everything! Rather than reaching for the nearest bag of finger-dyeing corn puffs, teachers have the opportunity to put something better in reach of kids. Teachers can kick those chips right out of the classroom by establishing their healthy classroom policy at the beginning of the school year. Instead of banning these items based on their nutrient content, teachers can fall back on the mess the foods can make, and their desire to say goodbye to bright orange fingerprints all over everything!

What would kids learn? By teaching nutrition lessons that encourage kids to choose from at least two food groups when making up their snack, they begin to learn about balanced nutrition and mindful eating. They'll also be empowered to make healthier choices at and between meals.

Not sure where to start? Healthy snacks are as simple as pairing an apple and a string cheese, a banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter, or some whole-grain crackers with cheddar cheese. Look no further for 10 Healthy Snack Tips from Experts.

 

References:

1. Sebastian RS, Wilkinson Enns C, Goldman JD. Snacking Patterns of U.S. Adults: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2007-2008. Food Surveys Research Group Dietary Data Brief No. 4. June 2011. 

2. Larson N, Story M. A review of snacking patterns among children and adolescents: what are the implications of snacking for weight status? Child Obes. 2013 Apr;9(2):104-15.

3. Taras H. Nutrition and student performance at school. J Sch Health. 2005 Aug;75(6):199-213. 

4. Slining MM, Mathias K, Popkin BM. Trends in food and beverage sources among US children and adolescents: 1989-2010. J Acad Nutr. Diet. 2013 Dec; 113(12): 1683-1694.

5. Piernas C, Popkin BM. Trends in snacking among U.S. children. Health Aff (Millwood). 2010 Mar-Apr;29(3):398-404.