(Un)healthy Food for Thought
At Head Start centers in Harris County, Texas, 181 teachers were asked five questions, including "How many servings of fruits and vegetables should you eat each day?" and "Which food group should be consumed most?" They were also asked questions about their attitudes, behaviors and weight status.
Almost one quarter of the teachers identified themselves as overweight (24 percent) and more than half were obese (55 percent).
Only four of the 181 teachers (3 percent) answered at least four of the five nutrition questions correctly, according to results in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
More than half of the teachers (52 percent) had consumed french fries on the previous day and more than four in 10 teachers (44 percent) drank soda. About a quarter of the teachers had not eaten fruit (26 percent) or vegetables (23 percent) the previous day.
Dr. Shreela Sharma, the study's lead author at the University of Texas, noted that this sample study does not necessarily represent the knowledge or habits of all preschool teachers in the country. Even so, she said the results reveal that many preschool teachers may not be where they should when it comes to nutritional knowledge and behaviors.
"An important caveat we need to consider is that teachers are role models for preschoolers," Sharma said. "This population does have the potential to impact our children."
Sharma noted that the survey's participants were not unlike the general population in their dietary behaviors. But these teachers should not be to blame for their lack of knowledge.
"There is no current nutritional education being provided to these teachers, which is why we saw these lower scores," Sharma said. "When we are hiring these teachers, we need to give them the tools to improve their own knowledge and model the right eating behaviors for children."
Half of the teachers (54 percent) agreed that it was hard to know which nutrition information to believe, and only 9 percent reported that their nutrition habits were healthy. A majority of teachers were trying to lose weight (71 percent) and said they would like to weigh less (81 percent).
Head Start teachers are responsible for providing nutrition education to over 1 million low-income children annually, yet little is known about their nutrition-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors.
Related Topics: Nutrition
Research shows that when people immigrate to the United States, their diet changes...Read More