It's something many people say they want to do but it doesn't always work that way.
But there are certain places where eating healthier is now mandated — the schools.
Because of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids ACT of 2010, changes have been made in school districts throughout the country, including in Wayne County.
The act calls for more vegetables and fruit as well as calorie limits by grade level and sodium targets.
Because of that, schools have had to change their approach to what is provided for the students.
Karen Carlson, food service director for the Wayne Highlands District, said there were other key changes targeted in the program, as well.
One of those was to make sure school district were "directly certified" to provide free and reduced meals. In doing that, schools were directed to work more closely with welfare offices to make sure students who were eligible were getting the meals.
"There was a real push to make those numbers go up," said Carlson.
Superintendent Greg Frigoletto said 46 percent of Wayne Highlands students are now eligible for free or reduced lunches.
He also pointed out that part of the legislation, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, closed the gap as to what the government pays for meals and what people not in the free and reduced program pay.
"That's why our meal prices have gone up," said Carlson.
She said they have gone up about 15-cents in the past couple of years.
Frigoletto said the district was required to follow a federal formula.
Of course the most visible part of the program are the new requirements which make sure districts are serving more whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Page 2 of 6 - As a nutritionists, Carlson said she has been working on changes for a long time.
"I have been proactive and made changes over the last 20 years," said Carlson. "Because I have been doing that, the changes we had to make have been minor."
Frigoletto agreed and said he thinks the changes, both mandated and those made by Carlson, have been positive.
"Any attempt we can make to encourage students in regard to wellness, that can't be bad," said Frigoletto. "How could it be a bad thing?"
He said the district is "still providing things kids like to eat."
He also said there is a larger picture, and that is educating children about eating more healthy.
"It can transcend beyond time (in the school)," said Frigoletto. "I hope they will carry it with them and make choices on their own. Maybe they will make those choices."
Carlson said though there have not been major scheduling or preparation issues, she does have to shop around for produce prices.
"They do fluctuate more," said Carlson.
She said as the seasons change, so will some of the producing offerings by the district.
Frigoletto pointed out that when a recent audit took place about the program, the district passed with flying colors.
"Karen has done a great job," said Frigoletto.
Carlson also noted that in this instance, the federal government has backed up its mandates with funding.
"The federal government doesn't often give you money for mandates," said Carlson.
In this case, though, they are giving six-cents more per meal for those which meet the standards. That translates to around $18,000 a year coming into the program for the federal government.
Page 3 of 6 - "These changes are costly," pointed out Frigoletto. "So the mandate increases the costs for Karen to put meals on the tray."
The superintendent also said that no matter the mandates or the programs, the district has a philosophy that students will get meals.
"Nobody is ever going to leave their schedule without lunch," said Frigoletto, who said it is the right thing to do.
"One of the things we know about nations that struggle is the root of it could come back to nutritional needs," he said. "So between breakfast and lunch program, I think the kids are going to have a better chance."
The superintendent also had high praise for Carlson.
"It is much more complicated than people give it credit for," said Frigoletto. "There's a lot that goes into it."
He also said Carlson's "philosophical" choices over the years have been good for the students.
"It is the right thing to do in educating kids on healthy choices," said Frigoletto. "Her role as a nutritionist and her attempts to do the right things result in a good program for the students."
Western Wayne situation
Food Service Supervisor Maria Liptak said the changes to the menu were minor.
"We switched all the students to whole grain breads," she said. Small changes to the school breakfast program were also made.
"Small changes are coming to the breakfast program. Now, half of the grains in the meal must be whole grains."
With the influx of lunch changes that serve more fresh fruits and vegetables, Liptak said she has not heard many complaints.
The response from students "has been positive. The kids are pretty receptive."
Page 4 of 6 - One area of the lunches that are a challenge is getting students to eat their legume serving.
"Getting the students to eat legumes is a challenge," she said. "We try to serve items like baked beans or black beans and rice to entice them."
With the new changes, the cost of lunches has gone up around 10 cents from last year. In the Western Wayne School District, "around 45 to 50 percent of students qualify for free or reduced price meals."
Another area where the district encourages healthy eating is in the snacks students bring to school.
On the school's website, www.westernwayne.org, multiple resources are available for parents sending items for a school party.
On the list, it offers suggestions for healthy celebrations. Some suggestions include asking the teacher beforehand to help plan special party games or activities.
If a parent wishes to send a special snack, some healthy suggestions are fruit smoothies or angel food cake with strawberries. A complete list of healthy choices is available by visiting www.westernwayne.org and selecting the "Western Wayne Wellness" tab.
Here's the federal government's overview of the legislation:
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 represents a major step forward in our nation's effort to provide all children with healthy food in schools. Increasingly schools are playing a central role in children's health.
Over 31 million children receive meals through the school lunch program and many children receive most, if not all, of their meals at school. With over seventeen million children living in food insecure households and one out of every three children in America now considered overweight or obese, schools often are on the front lines of our national challenge to combat childhood obesity and improve children's overall health. This legislation includes significant improvements that will help provide children with healthier and more nutritious food options, educate children about making healthy food choices, and teach children healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
Page 5 of 6 - What is the bill?
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 authorizes funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs and increases access to healthy food for low-income children.
The bill that reauthorizes these programs is often referred to by shorthand as the child nutrition reauthorization bill. This particular bill reauthorizes child nutrition programs for five years and includes $4.5 billion in new funding for these programs over 10 years.
Many of the programs featured in the Act do not have a specific expiration date, but Congress is periodically required to review and reauthorize funding. This reauthorization presents an important opportunity to strengthen programs to address more effectively the needs of our nation's children and young adults.
What does it do?
• Gives USDA the authority to set nutritional standards for all foods regularly sold in schools during the school day, including vending machines, the "a la carte" lunch lines, and school stores. Provides additional funding to schools that meet updated nutritional standards for federally- subsidized lunches. This is an historic investment, the first real reimbursement rate increase in over 30 years.
• Helps communities establish local farm to school networks, create school gardens, and ensures that more local foods are used in the school setting. Builds on USDA work to improve nutritional quality of commodity foods that schools receive from USDA and use in their breakfast and lunch programs.
• Expands access to drinking water in schools, particularly during meal times.
• Sets basic standards for school wellness policies including goals for nutrition promotion and education and physical activity, while still permitting local flexibility to tailor the policies to their particular needs. Promotes nutrition and wellness in child care settings through the federally-subsidized Child and Adult Care Food Program.
• Expands support for breastfeeding through the WIC program.
Page 6 of 6 - • Increases the number of eligible children enrolled in school meal programs by approximately 115,000 students by using Medicaid data to directly certify children who meet income requirements.
• Helps certify an average additional 4,500 students per year to receive school meals by setting benchmarks for states to improve the certification process.
• Allows more universal meal access for eligible students in high poverty communities by eliminating paper applications and using census data to determine school-wide income eligibility.
• Expands USDA authority to support meals served to at-risk children in afterschool programs.
Increases monitoring and integrity
•Requires school districts to be audited every three years to improve compliance with nutritional standards.
• Requires schools to make information more readily available to parents about the nutritional quality of meals.
• Includes provisions to ensure the safety of school foods like improving recall procedures and extending hazard analysis and food safety requirements for school meals throughout the campus.
•Provides training and technical assistance for school food service providers.