Healthier Lunches

HEALTH AND fitness have never been in more vogue than now. We have long been deemed as a nation overweight and out of shape. A coast-to-coast movement is in high gear to shed that less than flattering distinction.

A big part of the health puzzle is good nutrition. Proper eating habits are a must if we expect to shape up. That nutritional emphasis must be ingrained at an early age and reinforced as students progress through their years in school.

The national government has stepped to the plate in an attempt to make better nutrition in our schools a reality. Such a move is needed and long overdue. The Department of Agriculture has proposed a host of rules to clean up food intake at schools. That would go a long way in making for a much more nutritionally-balanced menu for students.

Should the Department of Agriculture get its way, candy bars and sugar-filled cookies will be gone, replaced by diet sodas and baked chips. The national health initiative would ban the sale of most candies and greasy foods on school grounds.

The Department of Agriculture is attempting to have school vending machines selling water, lower-calorie sports drinks and diet sodas. Schools currently serving fatty “a la carte” items like mozzarella sticks and nachos would have to switch to healthier pizzas, low-fat hamburgers, fruit cups and yogurt.

The changes are sweeping but bring countless benefits. The rules are required under a child nutrition law passed by Congress in 2010. The regulations are part of the government’s bid to combat childhood obesity.

To ensure the rules are followed the Agriculture Department would set fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits on almost all foods sold in schools. The standards would cover vending machines, the “a la carte” lunch lines, snack bars and any other foods regularly sold around school.

However, exempt would be in-school fundraisers or bake sales, though states have the power to regulate them. The new guidelines also would not apply to after-school concessions at school games or theater events, goodies brought from home for classroom celebrations, or anything students bring for their own personal consumption.

Child obesity is a major problem throughout the nation. The rules spelled out by the Department of Agriculture would go a long in helping reduce the problem.

But the regulations are only a partial solution. Good nutrition starts on the homefront and must be strictly monitored daily by parents and guardians.