Facts are facts: people prefer unhealthy food. It’s easier to access and more appealing to the senses. It’s loaded with salt, sugar, and fats that trigger the “I want more” craving. Without paying attention to nutritional value, we consume foods that hold no substantial sustenance as we continue a cycle of unhealthy eating.
We create poor dietary habits that are passed on to each generation, including our youth. September welcomes Nation Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in order to shed light on the health risks that come with a child being overweight/obese and to encourage ways to eat healthy and exercise.
Callaway High School found their own creative way to promote healthy eating when they decided to renovate their cafeteria this year. Brittney Berling, a Registered Dietitian and Director of Chartwell’s Troup County Diving Services, and Diane Pain, Director of School Nutrition for Troup County, gave awesome insight into CHS’s new road to student diet and nutrition.
“We face some rigorous nutrition requirements… calorie restrictions, sodium, saturated fat,” said Brittney. And unfortunately, it’s the calories, sodium, and saturated fat that make food taste so good, but CHS combats the unhealthy ingredients with creative things like a Spice Station. The Spice Station allows students to give healthy flavor to their food. White bread tends to taste sweeter, but this cafeteria uses whole grain-based bread to include in their pizza to balance out the healthy bread with the pizza taste that students love.
Nutrition teams in Troup County understand the importance of finding a middle ground between what students want and what students need in their diet. Brittney went on to describe how they “take into consideration what is appealing to children.” The nutrition coaches want food that is “nutritious, but good-tasting and popular among children.” When planning Troup County Schools’ cafeteria diets, retail facts, health requirements, and restaurant popularity among children falls into consideration.
Health requirements include vegetables and fruits which can be found at every food station at CHS, but a poll was given to the students last year to see what kinds of foods they want to see in the cafeteria and they want a sort of Starbucks vibe during lunchtime, so CHS created the Cavalier Café that offers coffee and yogurtbased smoothies and protein shakes. Directors of Nutrition like Brittney and Diane appeal to the children by providing them with coffee, but also include healthy items for the café, too.
One of the county’s main goals is to not only provide healthy meals for children, but to educate them in nutrition as well. “Our overarching goal is that we do aim for nutrition education and we want our cafeterias to feature that,” said Brittney. They do this by promoting events like Chef to School, which are opportunities for chefs to come into the cafeteria and show students how to prepare a healthy, but appetizing meal. Students are engaged in what it means to cook healthy and can sample the meals once they are finished, just to confirm that healthy food doesn’t always leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Encouraging healthy eating is now digital with the Nutrislice web app that shares schools’ daily menus to the public, while also providing nutrition facts and healthy eating tips. This app is a great way for students, parents, and faculty to know the details of the nutrition facts of each day’s menu while also engaging in educational tools for eating correctly.
CHS’s new cafeteria, the Cav’s Café, not only provides food that is healthy and tastes good, but looks good, too. Diane Pain described the “food court appeal” the school was going for, creating a more relaxed eating atmosphere for students. From deli stations to nacho stands, from premade meals and a coffee shop, the Cav’s Café offers a positive atmosphere for healthy eating. Diane said there’s “no more ‘slapping on the tray’”. The “mean old lunch lady” stereotype filled with bleak lunchroom walls and tasteless, unidentifiable food is no more at CHS.
CHS and all other schools in Troup County have found a way to not only invest in children academically, but to innovatively invest in their daily health habits as well. It’s investments like these that give the nation a positive example, a hope that Childhood Obesity can and will come to an end.
Peyton Hanners Staff Writer