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"Chocolate begets more chocolate; it never leads to carrots. Or spinach. Or tofu." - Dina Rose, PhD and parent educator

I really like this quote a lot. It's an essential piece of human nature. Sitting begets more sitting. Moving begets more moving. Reading begets more reading…and so on. Why am I bringing this up? As a friend of mine says: "It's not kids who have a problem with vegetables. It's the parents!"  How many of you adults actually eat vegetables in your house regularly? If you don't, why do you all of a sudden expect your kids to become a human farmer's market?

We as parents and educators, doctors, nutritionists and dentists are very keen on making sure that our children get the proper nutrition; especially when they are in school. So because JaQuan or Jordan won't drink milk or water unless it has some flavor in it, we rush to put some sort of sugar-like substance in it so they'll drink it now get the appropriate nutrients and then have the hope that eventually, someday when they are older and wiser and know that they have to pick up after themselves and be responsible, our children will just magically shift into drinking plain skim milk and/or unflavored tap water to assuage their thirst. Sound like a fantasy? Because it is!!!

I hate to sound like my grandparents, but…when I went to school we had milk, plain milk! That's it. There was nothing else. I didn't goto a poor inner city school that had no money. We did have a choice: 2% or skim. One friday a month(I think, it's hazy because it happened so infrequently) we got fruit punch. Man, we tore that fruit punch up, we were so happy. And then the next day there was milk and we drank it.  We had no choice. If you were thirsty you drank milk from a carton or water from the fountain. GAME OVER.  Though I don't drink cows milk now, I do drink water. Why? Again, because my mother made it be a no brainer: there was a glass, you put water in it. There was no juice, no kool-aid or ice tea…your choice was WATER, AGUA…that's it. There was no questioning it and if you complained, well…you were mighty thirsty, BECAUSE THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE IN THE HOUSE.

If you give children pizza to eat, they will not all of a sudden crave broccoli one day. Kids love pizza. I believe there is crack or heroin in it because they love it and a dang juice box as much as life itself. But if you give children healthy food(or at least a healthier version of pizza), over and over again, they will learn to eat it because they have no choice.

I think choice is over rated. I recently read an article which spoke about free won't instead of free will. It's a lot harder to say no to something that is right in front of you. If the m&ms are there, most likely you're gonna eat them. If you remove the m&ms or even cover them up in some way, you will probably not even think about them much. If you put chocolate milk in front of a child, you'd have to be an idiot to think that most of the children would not choose it. They have to learn to be comfortable with what to choose, not what not to choose. It's hard to learn from a negative space.  If chocolate milk is present here's what Dina Rose says it  teaches:

  1. Plain stuff isn’t tasty, but chocolate certainly is.
  2. Somehow, mixing milk with chocolate negates the chocolate, rendering the whole drink healthy. (

By choosing food product and junk-like food and drink, this is the message we are exposing our kids to:

  • Healthy equals tasteless,
  • If it's not sweet, salty or fatty, it's not good,
  • if it doesn't have excessive cheese on or in it, it is not good,
  • if it's not in a fun kid-friendly shape or color, we won't eat it,

We cannot control what children eat outside of school, but we can say, in this school space, we are going to promote a healthy sense of self and that includes what you put in your bodies. We are going to acclimate you, the student, to the taste of nutritious healthy food and feel of your bodies after eating it. After a child becomes accustomed, it becomes the new norm in that child's life. Neither I or my friends ever questioned that there might even be another choice of milk. We got treats, but that's what they were: treats. You don't eat treats everyday…oh wait. Back to my original point, most adults do eat and drink what is equivalent to a treat, every day; most meals for that matter.  This is why this issue is so hard. We as a society value our freedom; even if it's the freedom to slowly kill ourselves. Our overall society doesn't eat healthily.

I keep reiterating this point over and over about taking away food choices because I see it all the time in schools. There is a difference in children when they eat healthier options as opposed to fast food options. They are alert and less sleepy. If they have received proper rest the night before(which is not always the case with some kids), they will be better able to focus on the task at hand. Think this way: if the school lunch is something that would make you eat it and feel satisfied but not sluggish, most likely a child will feel the same way eating it. Lasagna can be filled with small cut veggies, chicken thighs with a teriyaki sauce can be served with rice and stir fries veggies, or a simple hoagie with an apple are all choices that can be easily prepared by a company and served to children.  When my daughter was in pre-school they made edible winter forests: raw broccoli and string beans stuck in a pile of low fat cream cheese with a small amount of italian or ranch dressing on them. These choices create palates that enjoy the taste of REAL food.

Schools are supposed to be the place where we aspire to our highest learning selves. Shouldn't they be promoting the best best healthy eating selves we can be as well?

This post is part of the MomsRising "Making the School Day Healthier" Blog Carnival headlined by Top Chef Lorena Garcia."

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