Sure, homeschooling provides families with flexibility with regard to education, but it also enables families to have higher levels of influence over other parts of their children’s day. Food availability and the accessibility of nutritional choices on school menus has been hotly contested in several areas of the country over the past decade. In some instances ketchup has even been counted as a vegetable!
Families of all kinds have multiple reasons to want more control over the foods made available to their children. Allergies put many children at risk of anaphylactic reactions, some of which may even result in death. Other children may not have specific dietary requirements, but parents are aware of the need to make healthy choices for themselves and their children. The growing trend of obesity affecting children at younger and younger ages and the increasing prevalence of heart disease, hypertension, and endocrine disorders such as diabetes is reason enough to want to improve a family’s meal plan.
Limiting a child’s access to poor food choices can be especially challenging for parents who have their children enrolled in full time school programs outside of the home. Cafeteria foods are notorious for inadequate nutrition and unpalatable choices. Fortunately many active parents, politicians, and educators are working to improve the quality of food in school lunches and breakfasts, but most would agree that there is still significant room for improvement. Packing a “brown-bag” lunch and/or breakfast is often a valid alternative for making sure children have access to high nutrient foods, but vending machine access and the ability to trade foods with other students can often limit the feasibility of a packed meal ensuring a good lunch or breakfast.
Homeschoolers seem to have an edge when it comes to making the right foods available to their children. Research has shown that children eat better when nutritional food choices are made easily available and accessible to them. Having fresh fruits and vegetables pre-cut and washed and ready to eat has been shown to greatly improve the quantity of vegetables and fruits that children will consume. Making healthy choices convenient is much easier in a home environment with a kitchen armed with a refrigerator and freezer. Since most homes don’t come with vending machines dispensing a plethora of candy, soda, and high calorie sport or energy drinks, homeschooled children may be at a distinct nutritional advantage.
Flexibility in meal times and schedule can also help with children only eating when they are hungry and not going for long periods unable to eat because of the physical constraints of a classroom or school bus. Gardening, preparing fresh foods with your children, or making something as simple as homemade humus transfers a great wealth of nutritional knowledge. Research has also shown that involving children in the growing and preparation of healthy food choices will positively impact their willingness to consume hearty, healthful foods. Actively educating your children about preparing nutritional foods and eating what’s best for their bodies and minds may well improve their chances for long-term health!
In what ways do you encourage healthy eating choices in your home?