Breaking News:

Healthier School Snacks Will Help Conquer Childhood Obesity

Yahoo Contributor Network

Goodbye Snickers and hello whole grains. As reported by CNN, new federal guidelines released Thursday will require school vending machines to provide healthier snacks for students. Sugary beverages like sports drinks will be replaced with lower-calorie options like bottled water. Foods must be at least 50 percent whole grains, or list fruits, vegetables, or a protein source as the first ingredient. The new guidelines will take effect July 2014.

Finally, the federal government is getting serious about conquering childhood obesity.

America's children have a weight problem. According the CDC, in 2010 1 in every 3 American children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Juvenile diabetes has been renamed type 1 diabetes because so many children are developing the adult form of this chronic illness. And most recently, the American Medical Association has declared obesity a disease.

But can something as simple as changing vending machine snacks actually work? I believe it can.

When I was in school back in the 1980s, we had no vending machines. While our cafeteria meal options may not have been the best, at least we could by a tuna sandwich. Once a month, a Slush Puppy machine was brought in as a treat. And I never remember being able to buy a soda. Basically, we ate whatever was available.

So what's the worst that could happen if we stock the school vending machines with healthier snacks? We limit their options for junk food. We send a subtle message that says this is what you should be eating. And while there's nothing to stop kids from bringing junk food from home, at least we've taken a step toward encouraging them to snack wisely. It's better than not doing anything. That's what we've been doing and you see what the consequences of inaction have been.

Providing healthier vending machine snacks is a good starting point in conquering the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. Now if we could just get schools to stop making kids sell candy bars for fundraisers.

Jennifer Budd is a registered nurse and a former broadcast journalist in the NYC/New Jersey area.

View Comments (9)