According to a study from researchers at Cardiff University, one way to encourage children to eat healthily is to ban all unhealthy snacks in schools.
So…. if only healthy snacks are allowed in school… then children will eat more healthy snacks because their only alternative is… not eating?
An even greater impact was seen in schools which also had a “no food ” or “fruit only policy”, where children ate 0.14 more portions of fruit per day and in schools where fruit was the only food allowed, children ate 0.37 more portions of fruit per day.
Again… children ate more fruit when fruit was the only food allowed? Um, YEAH. If everyone brings a 3:00 snack, and suddenly the only snack is allowed to be fruit… then I think at least some kids are going to choose to bring fruit over bringing nothing.
Believe me, I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you all. Now, I am all for promoting healthy eating in elementary schools (and all schools, and workplaces, etc.)… but the whole idea of banning food seems very wrong to me. First, can a school really say that a kid can’t bring a cookie in his lunchbox? (I realize that school vs. family responsibility is a large, separate issue). Second, why do we want to introduce this black and white thinking about food at such a young age? Good food vs. bad food. I think that healthy attitudes about eating are JUST as important as healthy habits.
Third… look how good this good food / bad food thing is working for adults! (read: it’s not). I think that the obesity epidemic is just fueled by society’s dieting obsession. I don’t think that I really need to go into the issues that arise around trying to eat only “good food” (and inevitably failing).
Fourth… the article did mention the issue of after-school snacking. These kids are going to go home and eat all of the junk food that they would have eaten at school. What kind of overall effect does this have? Kids aren’t eating anything in the morning or during the school day (when they need the energy), and are consuming the bulk of their calories in the evening (probably empty calories, on top of it). Yet another lifestyle problem that dietitians preach against.
Lastly… I think that this model introduces shame into one’s daily lifestyle and reflection of self. (Enter eating disorder relevancy). You’re telling kids, “WHAT are you doing! You are eating BAD food. What kind of person would make such an unhealthy choice? People who eat like you are right now get FAT… and that is WRONG, and if you want to be a good person, then you need to eat GOOD food.” Okay, maybe that’s extreme… but I could definitely see feeling ashamed by being scolded by a teacher for bringing something unhealthy in for lunch.