Friday, October 7, 2011

Healthy? I think not...

So New Jersey (or at least Vineland) is imposing this new "healthy breakfast" program on its schools. They boast that since breakfast is the most important meal of the day, students perform better when they have it. Duh.

I'm not naive enough to think that every parent feeds his child breakfast every morning, so in theory, I promote this new program. In practice, however, I have a real problem with it. In a nation with skyrocketing childhood obesity cases, I would think that the "healthy breakfast" would include those foods that parents who are not feeding their children breakfast probably don't consider. Apples, oranges, grapes, peaches, any fruit, really would be acceptable. Any vegetable would be fantastic. A lunch bag with Fruit Loops, animal crackers, juice and milk is NOT acceptable, nor is the Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal bar and the chocolate chip "muffin" (let's be honest--it is really cake disguised as breakfast). The one thing I have been able to control as a parent and the one area where I have been successful as a parent is now being undermined. My children get eight to ten fruit and veggie servings a day. They eat (or at least try) almost anything and their sugary treats are limited.

This isn't to brag--I am lacking in SOOOO MANY other areas, this one is just important to me. I suffer from hypothyroidism, fibromyalsia and an autoimmune disease that went undiagnosed for years. I packed on weight without really eating anything at all. During this time I knew that people (especially teachers and doctors) would assume that I consume junk and therefore feed it to my children. I had to be extra vigilant in my quest to serve healthy foods. After all of my time in waiting rooms, I read more Prevention, Health, Self and food,health and parenting magazines than anyone should ever have to think about in a lifetime. I got to the point where the newer articles were refuting the old, and the newest articles confirmed the old. What I didn't read in doctor's offices, I would look up myself. I became obsessed with feeding my children properly. Don't drink sports drinks or soda: check. Limit or eliminate fried foods and trans fats: check. Eat whole foods and limit juices to once a day or not at all: check. Incorporate whole grains and omega 3s into your diet: check. Eliminate or limit sugary cereals and desserts: check.

Minus. I couldn't take away all treats--especially when they would eat so well. I tried to make even the yummy stuff healthy, for example, I put oat bran and ground flax seed (and sometimes even spinach) in brownies. I make oatmeal with kefir, flax seed, oat bran, and berries. My kids love these things and I love rewarding their phenomenal eating habits. This all came to a grinding halt the first day they were offered Fruit Loops , animal crackers and fruit juice at school. How can I continue to instill in my children the need for healthy foods when the school is providing them with the food I tell them we need to limit or eliminate? It took me years to convince them that "FRUIT" Loops were not really fruit at all and they are actually not healthy at all. They finally were on board and now the school is saying otherwise. As a teacher, I am always rallying for the schools and the teachers, so how can I now tell my children that the school is wrong?

I told them that some kids don't get ANY food, so it's nice that the school is feeding everyone, but we eat a healthy breakfast--usually the oatmeal from above with a piece of fruit or a spinach and kale smoothie, before they leave in the morning. I decided to treat the school's "breakfast" as a snack. In my brain, if they were to have a snack of cookies and juice each day (which was the case in many child care centers where I worked when I was younger) it would be similar. Of course, then I would have to complain about the cookie and juice intake each day. Maybe it's ME...? Nah! The biggest problem I have with all of this is the fact that they are making me into THAT parent and I HATE THAT parent. But seriously, could it hurt them to throw a banana at the kids every once in a while?


  1. That is so true!!! It is ridiculous what they consider "healthy" food.

  2. I know. Just when you think you are doing something right, someone comes along and sabbotages your work. In this case, the school system!

  3. I pretty much had a fit when I saw one school system bragging that they'd replaced their vending machines with healthy choices. The vending machines are now filled with sports drinks, Vitamin Water, and organic cookies... it's still all SUGAR!!

  4. I'd also like to commend you on your diligence in sticking with healthy eating. I know it can be difficult, especially when we aren't feeling well and convenient "comfort" foods becomes tempting, but you're doing the smart thing. I have all the disorders you mentioned and then some.

  5. You are doing an amazing job teaching your children to eat healthy. I also went undiagnosed with an issue with my thyroid. We all got on a healthier eating habit in 2005 thanks to a friend who introduced me to Advocare. My family all lives by it now. We do not allow any white--flour, sugar, grains into our household. Some thought we were crazy making our kids eat this way, but I didn't care. We also only buy organic products and all our meat and dairy food comes from a local dairy farm. All three of my children know and preach to others what is healthy to eat.
    You are doing an amazing job!!

  6. I totally agree with this! My students eat the school's so-called "healthy breakfast" of donuts and lucky charms, then they come to my classroom all sugared-up for the day! It's not the best way for those kiddos to start the morning!

    PS- Didn't know you suffered from thyroid disease..I have hyperthyroidism, and I know how much the disease can mess with your whole system.

  7. It's so great to see how vigilant you all are--and I appreciate the kudos you sent! As you know, it is one of the most difficult things to stand firm on in our children's lives--there are so many outside forces (not JUST the school system!) undermining us. I don't know Advocare(but am definitely interested in hearing more--remember, I confuse easily!) and I am not quite as vigilant as you are--I admire that and wish I had it in me to fight all of the fights, but when it comes right down to it I am tired and find it so difficult to maintain a healthy way of life for my children. When all of the factors come into play--time, money...well, time and money primarily, and I guess convenience and ignorance on my part, I tend to settle for pesticide-ridden veggies and hormone-full (that is going to be a word now, okay?) meats and milk. THEN I start to think that my children would be better off eating piles of sugar rather than the "poison" I feed them regularly. Everyone tells you that this job is tough, but there are no words to describe exactly HOW tough!
    Lenae--I am so sorry to hear that you are having thyroid issues, too. I hope that you caught it soon enough that you are feeling well and are able to control it with medicine! I can't help but wonder if my health problems don't come from all of the things in my food that I don't really know many people seem to suffer from the same things. I'm not actually DOING anything about it (I buy some organic, but if it isn't convenient and inexpensive, they lose me!), but I do wonder...

  8. Again with the not-having-paragraphs-thing! I'll get better--I promise!


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