If you’re like most parents, you try to feed your children the healthiest food possible. From a nutritious breakfast to a wholesome lunch and satisfying dinner, you strive to teach good habits that will encourage your children to make a lifetime of healthy choices. But a new study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine has revealed that all those efforts could be undermined by something you have little control over: the food options surrounding your child’s school.
The study, which was conducted by a team led by Dr. Tracie Barnett of L'Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INCS) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, found that the choices of available food surrounding schools didn’t just affect children’s diets, it also affected their oral health.
"What the study found is that despite initiatives by parents and the community to encourage healthy eating and oral care habits, the presence of junk food close to schools counteracts those initiatives," says Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, Texas. "So basically, if your child goes to school across the street from a McDonald’s, telling him to eat healthy is going in one ear and out the other."
So, what can be done to combat these alarming findings? After all, many districts don’t allow families to choose schools, and transferring schools can be difficult, if not impossible.
"Obviously you can’t just pull your child out of a school because it’s too close to a fast food establishment, but you will need to work that much harder to educate your kids about making smarter food choices- particularly how those choices affect not just their weight, but their oral health, too," says Hill.
Another way to make an impact?
"Get involved. Join the PTA. Go to city council meetings. Work to actively influence the kinds of businesses that come into your community, and where they’re established."