Dear American School Principals,

I am a pediatric registered dietitian in Laguna Beach, California, and have spent my professional life teaching parents what and how to feed their children. I am not a nutrition extremist; I believe in birthday cakes on birthdays, candy on Halloween and dessert on occasion.

The last several years have felt like a steep uphill battle because much of the good work I do to build healthy eating habits in the home is sabotaged by unhealthy food being given to children everywhere they turn. The banks offer lollipops. The grocery stores hand out cookies. And parents and coaches now bring sugary snacks to soccer and baseball games, as I reported in “Soccer Snack Insanity.”

But the most disheartening trend I have seen is in our American schools. Kids are given food for every conceivable occasion. Every week, parents from all over our country flood my inbox with concerns about their schools giving their kids sugary foods in the classroom. Foods like ice cream, candy and cookies are showing up for every birthday and holiday imaginable. Let’s do some math. If there are an average of 25 students in an American classroom, that is a lot of celebratory cupcake parties throughout the school year. And let’s face it, most of your students are having birthday parties outside of school with plenty of sugar.

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