You may have heard the recent buzz around your kids’ school cafeteria: Congress has now declared pizza a vegetable. Well, to be specific, they’ve declared that the tomato paste is equal to ½ cup of vegetables. Parents are up in arms, of course. Since when does pizza, the greasy stuff we lived off of during our college dorm days, qualify as a serving of veggies?
Several years ago, our local schools started banning sweet treats on a child’s birthday. Remember those chocolate cupcakes Mom brought in on your special day? No more. Now we’re required to pass out pencils, stickers and other cheap goodies that will most likely be tossed the minute a child gets home. The reasoning behind this? Nationwide obesity. In other words, that cupcake your child might get once a month in class is contributing to this growing problem, not the two Big Macs the child consumed on the way home from school.
Sadly, many children don’t have parents around to help them make good choices when it comes to food; they rely solely on the breakfasts and lunches they get at school. So it is important schools play a part in helping kids eat healthy. Many schools have already made big changes, taking soda machines off campus and replacing junk food at the snack bars with fruit, veggies and protein items. Michelle Obama has tried to do her part to encourage kids to make healthy choices, and many schools, including my kids’, implement a nutrition unit where they teach children about the four food groups and have them keep a food journal at home. But are these things really helping?
I, for one, am guilty of letting my kids occasionally indulge in junk food. A quick glance around my car will confirm this; McDonalds wrappers and empty soda cups sometimes litter the floors. Am I proud of this? Certainly not. But do we eat this way every day? Definitely not. I’m still a firm believer in “everything in moderation.” Will an occasional cupcake in class hurt a kid in the long run? Highly doubtful. I realize that, as a parent, it is my responsibility to help my kids make good choices. After all, I’m the one who does the grocery shopping, and if twenty bags of Doritos end up in the cart, it’s most likely my fault.
So back to the pizza. Is tomato paste a veggie? Technically, I suppose it is. But is that the real issue at hand? I think we have to look at the big picture, not just a slice of pepperoni. Nutrition is about a lifestyle, not a single food item. We must all play our part in this and take responsibility instead of blaming one particular thing. In the long run, we’re all in this together. But that’s just my food for thought. What’s yours?