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Guidelines for School Health Programs

to Promote Lifelong Healthy Eating


Healthy eating patterns in childhood and adolescence promote optimal childhood

health, growth, and intellectual development; prevent immediate health

problems, such as iron deficiency anemia, obesity, eating disorders, and dental

caries; and may prevent long-term health problems, such as coronary heart disease,

cancer, and stroke. School health programs can help children and

adolescents attain full educational potential and good health by providing them

with the skills, social support, and environmental reinforcement they need to

adopt long-term, healthy eating behaviors.

This report summarizes strategies most likely to be effective in promoting

healthy eating among school-age youths and provides nutrition education

guidelines for a comprehensive school health program. These guidelines are

based on a review of research, theory, and current practice, and they were developed

by CDC in collaboration with experts from universities and from national,

federal, and voluntary agencies.

The guidelines include recommendations on seven aspects of a school-based

program to promote healthy eating: school policy on nutrition, a sequential, coordinated

curriculum, appropriate instruction for students, integration of school

food service and nutrition education, staff training, family and community involvement,

and program evaluation.


School-based programs can play an important role in promoting lifelong healthy

eating. Because dietary factors “contribute substantially to the burden of preventable

illness and premature death in the United States,” the national health promotion and

disease prevention objectives encourage schools to provide nutrition education from

preschool through 12th grade (1 ). The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Nutrition

Education and Training (NET) Program urges “nutrition education [to] be a major

educational component of all...