THE BLOG

Make Not Bake Finally Comes to a School Near You

02/11/2015 05:18 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015

Are you a foodie?

If you haven't trained your taste buds to crave only a narrow definition of tasty, and are willing to take forays into the world of undefined flavors, and can convince your kids to come with you on the journey to taste flavors made with good things that infuse the body with lasting goodness, then say this:

"I pledge to be a foodie, adventurous and brave, keep my tastebuds curious, no matter what I crave. Try new exciting foods from the East, West, North and South, keep an open mind, and of course, an open mouth." -- The foodie Pledge from the children's book The Foodie Club.

Last week American children were introduced to a cool new idea -- the UnBake Sale.

The traditional Bake Sale has long been a cornerstone of schools. As early as Pre-K and as late as Senior year in high school when the class field trip needs to be funded, we bake for sale. From early childhood when kids begin to learn the building blocks of their core beliefs, through high school when teens question everything, the one constant message is that promoting and eating sugary snacks for fun is a way of life. But should it be?

In 2014 the CDC announced its most recent findings showing an almost 20 percent obesity rate among American teens. Twelve percent of toddlers aged 2-5 were found to be within the boundaries of obesity, while nearly 70 percent of adults were overweight and more than third obese. Alarmingly, It's about time we scrutinized our snack culture.

"A common myth is that children will outgrow their excess weight. Not true!" says Dr. Adrienne Youdim, formerly with Cedars Sinai Department of Nutrition and now in private practice. "Weight loss is hard. Our bodies have many mechanisms that work to circumvent successful weight loss. So the number one risk factor for becoming an obese adult is being an overweight child."

Still, the bake sale persists, followed by a sugary drink and packaged snack at home before dinner.

Bolthouse Farms, a local vertically integrated farm with a mission to "make fruit and veggie snacking irresistibly fun, one bite at a time", has launched an UnBake Sale initiative and is challenging 100 schools across America to be the first to take the UnBake Sale pledge.

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I am lucky enough to live in a district where our Elementary school was the first to showcase an UnBake Sale. For an entire week we highlighted healthy eating habits and good food choices for kids, with speakers ranging from Olympic athletes to authors and media personalities on the subject of health. We brought in doctors to tell the kids about calories and food labels, and yes, even obesity. We did fun skits, had a massive Hula Hoop contest, showcased gardening and the joy of growing your own food, and talked about how the longer the shelf life, the shorter yours.

Dr. Kathy Magliato, Cardiothoracic surgeon and pioneering woman in the field of heart health, gave us a two-fer by motivating kids to aim high and imploring them to eat well. She said "unlike cancer, heart disease is preventable and yet it remains the #1 killer of men and women in the US." Prevention, she cautioned, starts at a young age with modeling a healthy lifestyle for our children and talking about heart healthy habits such as eating well and exercising regularly. "It starts here," she said "with education and awareness about risk factors and healthy choices."

Parents agreed. "Making the topic of healthy choices the theme of an entire week at school was a great decision", gushed one mom, while others applauded the roster of guests and the advent of the UnBake Sale which was revealed after school to delighted students lining up at an inviting booth featuring 'fruits and vegetables disguised as snacks'. "As a parent, I understand that it's not enough to tell kids that fruits and veggies are healthy - you have to capture their imagination," says Suzanne Saltzman Ginestro, Chief Marketing Officer at Bolthouse Farms. And that they did. With apples and grapes cobbled together to look like turtles and raspberries and blueberries strung along to look like caterpillars, bananas and strawberries disguised as bunnies, the kids couldn't get enough while the parents couldn't stop smiling. There were no quarrels about, "only one" or the common admonishment of choosing between a cookie or a cupcake. Parents mingled as kids snacked and all contemplated a new way of making, not baking, snacks.

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Strawberry Aliens, friends with Green Apple Turtles

School parent and researcher on population health, Dr. Susann Rohwedder, observed that "while many factors have been contributing to the increasing weight among our American population, one important factor is the ready availability of sweets, candy, juices and sodas in our daily lives." In truth, many parents try to teach their children healthy choices at home, but what happens at school is crucial. "This is the place where our children spend a large part of their day and as parents we would like to know that the school environment and the teachers are active partners in teaching children healthy choices," Rohwedder adds.

The UnBake Sale initiative was created in response to the Smart Snacks in Schools standards. These are science-based nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages sold to children at school during the school day. The standards, required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, "will allow schools to offer healthier snack foods to children, while limiting junk food." The USDA's Smart Snacks in Schools took effect in July 2014, and the regulation impacts all food and drink sold during the school day, including bake sales. "We are excited to launch the UnBake Sale initiative to help schools, and parents, reimagine the traditional bake sale," said Saltzman.

And reimagine we did for a week in Southern California, by the shores of the Pacific, where fruit grows ripe under the constant sun and nixing the Bake Sale in favor of the UnBake Sale should just be a natural progression of our evolution as parents.

I for one, hope this catches on.

Tips from our week of Doctors & Parents:

Advice from a cardiothoracic surgeon: "Parents must be good role models for their children and guide them toward healthy food choices. Children can't be what they can't see, which is why the fight against obesity must be fought by the parents of overweight or obese children. That battle begins with taking care of our own parental weight control and heart health and inspiring, by example, our children to do the same".
- Dr. Kathy Magliato

Tips from a Doctor of Nutritional Medicine:

  • Reduce screen time to less than 2 hours preferably 1 hour a day.
  • Keep your kids active. 60 minutes of daily activity is the goal and what is recommended by the American pediatric society
  • Increase fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables need to make up half of every meal
  • Limit fast food and other food intake outside of the home
  • Eat as a family. Sitting down to eat as a family is associated with reduced rates of obesity.
  • Eliminate caloric drinks. This includes soda and juices. Eat the whole fruit.
  • Switch to nonfat or low fat dairy after age 2
-- Dr. Adrienne Youdim

A stress relief exercise from Mom and CNN Health Blogger Amanda Enayati:

Amanda taught the kids a stress relief exercise, while guiding them through breathing right and listening to their bodies: Breathe in for 7 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds and imagine yourself scrubbing the stress from your bones, then breathe out for 7 seconds.

Author Dani Shear implored kids to try new things that are green and maybe healthy. She led them in the Foodie Pledge from her book, The Foodie Club, see above.