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HEALTHY SNACKING IN THE CLASSROOM |
Practice, information, research, and recommendations
by Carol Goodrow
Date: May 11
I ran on the trail and then walked on the tar. Then we went down the trail again. I had fun but that wasn't all! I felt some muscles coming into my body and I was getting strong. I run a lot and I eat healthy snacks in school.
from Tyler's Run & Journal entry after a first grade classroom run
Some of the most dramatic changes in my classroom this year were my kids' snacking habits. At the end of the year when our schedule was in disarray because of testing, the kids would continue to ask, "When are we having HEALTHY snack?" Healthy snack was something they had come to depend on, as much as recess, but the year hadn't started out like this.
Afternoon snack time with friends
When the year began we had afternoon snack and most of the kids brought in sweets or junk food. The kids were allowed to eat at their desks or on the floor. They could buddy up with a friend or sit by themselves. Some kids sat with a bunch of classmates, some ate with one friend, and some sat alone.
First attempt at an afternoon healthy snack program
I started a program where kids were asked to bring in healthy snacks, Monday - Thursday, with junk food or sweets allowed on Friday. The program was minimally successful. I hadn't clearly defined which foods were in the healthy snack category, but it was obvious that candy, sweets, and chips were not allowed. Even within the very loose guidelines which I had set, only a few of the kids were bringing in what we were defining as healthy snacks, but I had sent a note home explaining my rules for snack time and asked the kids to post the note on their refrigerators. I had done my part...or had I?
Changing my snacking habits
Later in the year, after reading a few alarming health articles about the increase in diabetes in our society, I decided to revisit my snack policy.
I stopped eating anything in front of the kids during the day which didn't fall into our healthy snack category. After a while one child asked me why I didn't like cookies. I explained that I did, but I only ate them once in a while.
I started refusing the loads of sweets that were always available to teachers in our school for every occasion: staff member birthdays, holidays, parties, weekly celebrations such as 'dessert buffets' etc. The kids weren't watching but I figured I'd better live what I was preaching.
I became more and more aware of how difficult it is in our society to be healthful in our eating habits.
I did some surveying of teachers through this Web site and on the Teacher's Net. I took a bunch of my findings and sat down with my kids to conference.
We talked about many snack options and came up with a plan together.
Our plan: morning snack during story time
We would have healthy snack after opening, early each morning, from Monday - Friday. The kids would eat their snacks at their desks. We would all be together and during this time I would read a chapter of a Junie B. Jones book. This was their favorite kind of literature; outrageous children's classroom humor. I hoped, in fact, that it would be the time in the day that they looked forward to the most. Each Junie B. chapter ends like a 'cliffhanger'. I had often felt that the kids would get themselves to school the following morning just to find out what happened next to Junie B.
I was excited now. I just knew this would work. It was 'our' plan, not 'my' plan. Moreover, I wanted them to associate healthy eating with a peaceful, fun, and friendly atmosphere. The coupling of healthy snack time with their favorite story time seemed to be a great idea.
And it was THEIR responsibility to communicate to their parents what they could bring in for snack. I wanted the kids to understand what we were doing well enough to deliver the healthy snack message to their parents. We also decided that if the snack they brought in was not what we considered 'healthy' that they could eat it later in the day but not during this healthy snack period. It worked. These were the foods they most frequently brought in.
Low Fat Granola Bars
Kids become healthy snackers.
The snacks my kids brought to school were pretty plain and simple; nothing too fancy, save a cut up apple coated with peanut butter, or some cut up veggies and a little dip. Fruit juice, water, or milk were allowed as beverages, but no fruit 'drinks'. Soon the kids became proud of their healthy eating. If you walked into the room during snack time, they'd spontaneously hold their foods up to show you.
For a while we kept a classroom chart. Each day one of the kids could draw a picture of their snack and add their name to the chart.
Moms would comment that kids would go home and ask for an after school snack...a 'HEALTHY' afternoon snack.
Parents commented that kids would choose oranges over donuts.
The kids and I both agreed that they really learned about healthy eating from this healthy snack time when they had to figure out what we would say 'Yes' to in our classroom.
We had lots of fun with this and decided to add 'healthy snack' to our Run&Journal form which we filled in after each run.
Resources, references, and links to support the need for healthy eating
Too Little Too Late for Too Many Overweight Kids? pediatrics.about.com
Cancer risk can be reduced by an overall dietary pattern that includes a high proportion of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans), limited amounts of meat, dairy, and other high-fat foods, and a balance of caloric intake and physical activity.
Cut your risks of diabetes by eating more fruits and veggies. Healthy Eating Tips from the ADA
As children age and move into adolescence they become less apt to exercise and eat healthy foods. Eat Well and Keep Moving by Cheung, Gortmaker, and Dart
Children's habits are more influenced by peers, teachers, and television as they get older. Getting Kids to Eat Well & Be Active Weight Watchers International, Inc, and the American Health Foundation
Coaches and parents can help by being good nutritional role models; eating healthy foods, and encouraging young athletes to follow. Training for Young Distance Runners Greene & Pate
Kids can modify their diet gradually by cutting out high-fat snacks and desserts and eating more fruits and vegetables.
Exercise for Overweight Kids Richard B. Parr, EdD
THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 26 - NO. 6 - JUNE 98