Friday, August 05, 2005

Teach children about food

PUBLICATION: The Ottawa Citizen
DATE: 2005.08.05
EDITION: Final
SECTION: City
PNAME: City Editorial
PAGE: F4
BYLINE: Elaine Murkin
SOURCE: The Ottawa Citizen

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Teach children about food

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Re: Banish junk food from the schools, July 24.

Letter-writer Tammy Papineau has identified a question familiar to all parents: how do you know when your adolescent is responsible enough to make healthy choices?

Research has shown that school is an ideal environment to teach children and adolescents about nutrition and to provide opportunities for healthy eating. It is during these early teenage years that children begin to exercise independent choice. Indeed, prohibiting a particular food or activity only makes it seem more desirable, especially when it is just across the street at a chip wagon or convenience store.

The Eat Smart! school cafeteria program, as part of the Ottawa Public Health nutrition program, does not limit the presence of any foods, but ensures that healthy choices are available on the breakfast, snack and lunch menus. Empowering the students with the knowledge they need to make wise food purchases and giving them the opportunity to put this knowledge into practice in their own schools allows for strong reinforcement of messages about healthy food choices.

The award-winning Fuel to Xcell healthy vending program, a partnership of Ottawa Public Health and the school vending company, is also available at many Ottawa high schools. It works on the same premise of providing choice. Vending items are coded similar to traffic lights to indicate excellent choices, foods to be eaten less often and those that should be eaten only once in a while.

A pilot study done in 2004 found that vending sales of healthy snacks and beverages doubled, while overall sales did not decrease.

Providing students with the skills needed to make healthy food choices and giving them the opportunities to use these skills at their cafeterias and vending machines helps them to develop habits that will benefit them throughout their lives.

Elaine Murkin,

Ottawa,

Nutritionist,

Ottawa Public Health

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