My daughter loves digging in the sand for buried treasure. When she was a toddler, we snuck some skee ball tickets in to the sand when she was not looking. We did the same again this past weekend, only this time we really made her dig for them. The smile on her face when she unearthed the tickets was priceless. As I sat and walked on the beach, I looked around at the other people enjoying the (short) Maine summer. Kids were running back and forth, body surfing and chasing seagulls. These kids were definitely getting their exercise. However, I also noticed the 20-oz. bottles of Coke in their hands and the copious amounts of junk food on their towels.
It is very hard to eat a healthy diet at this particular beach unless you pack food from home. Trust me, I have tried. Fries, fried dough and pizza rule the day here. I could not help but think about a webinar I attended on sodium and kids. The amount of sodium in the food sold at restaurants often far exceeds the amount that school-aged kids need. Most kids only need 1,500 mg a day.
The good news is that when these kids finally get the sand out of their hair and head off to school in the fall, their lunches will have less sodium. An old school lunch at your typical middle school could have about 1,500 mg.—a full day sodium in one meal. The current standards, adopted last year, reduce that amount slightly—with a target of no more than 1,360mg. The standards for the 2018 school lunches will be 860, still more than half of what kids need, but much better than the full day supply they were receiving and about equal to a fast-food cheeseburger and fries. Not a heavy lift.
However, the food industry has gotten to the US Senate in an effort to roll back and delay these important standards. Unbelievably they are actually making headway. The American Heart Association knows that the science is strong, that sodium causes increased high blood pressure in kids and teens, leading to serious health problems down the road.
The American Heart Association knows that our kids are our treasure and that if we want them to be able to enjoy beach weekends with their kids (and maybe sneak some skee ball tickets into the sand), we need to do what we can to keep them healthy.