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Posts tagged ‘nutrition’

Food Industry Makes Healthy Choices for Children Hard

lettuce and chipsMarch is National Nutrition Month and, just in time, the New York Times Magazine has put a spotlight on just how hard it is to make healthy food choices — and to raise our children to do so. The expose into the food industry’s success at seducing our taste buds while leaving us craving more is well worth a read.

Yes, adults do ultimately have to take responsibility for what we put in our bodies. However thousands of food marketers work full time to make products irresistible, and most of us have jobs, families, and much more on our minds when we stop by the store at the end of a busy day.

And we certainly can’t expect our kids to have the discipline necessary to make good choices. As one anonymous parent commenting on the NY Times Magazine piece wrote,

It takes a lot of resources to say no all the time. Mentally, I have to believe in the fight enough to ignore his chronic nagging. Before I had kids living in THIS culture, I could not have imagined the chronic torment of having to fight off the power of these taste-engineered products and their perfect marketing. If you are lucky enough to send your kids to an elite private school where nobody eats this stuff, good for you, but the lower the SES, the more often kids see this garbage, on TV and in their friend’s hands, and the more they want it.

No wonder working parents fail so often. This is a battle that is rarely won without educated parents who have time and money. And yet, here we stand, waving the flag of personal responsibility, as we throw 90% of our children to the wolves.

This article and others, (including this post from a New York Times blog about a study showing a strong connection between sugar consumption and diabetes), are important for educating the public. With obesity rates at 36% for adults and 17% for children in the U.S., we need to do more very quickly.

What do you think the solution is? More nutrition education for the public? Government enforced labeling and regulations?

In the meantime, if you’re running into the supermarket, try to stick to the outside aisles of the store as much as possible.

Reactions to New School Lunches at Your School?

Opinions vary on the new federal school lunch standards — what’s your take?  Photo from USDAgov via Flickr.

The new federal school lunch standards rolled out this September have drawn protests and boycotts from high-schoolers, and there are reports that children of all ages are dumping their veggies. The new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are admirably aimed at improving health and combating childhood obesity, but is this the right approach?

The new standards insure students are offered fruit and vegetables every day, increase offerings of whole grain foods, offer only fat-free or low-fat milk, and limit calories based on the age of the children being served.

Childhood obesity is certainly a serious health concern. Here in Connecticut a recent study found that a third of kindergarteners and third-graders are overweight and one in seven are obese.

Obesity solution or restricted eating?

Some say the  new lunch program is a step in the right direction, while others object to the calorie limitations and say the changes are too sudden.

The Milwakee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that 70% of Mukwonago High students who normally buy lunch boycotted the school lunches to protest the one-size-fits-all approach. The USDA standards limit lunchtime calories for students in grades nine through twelve to 850.

“A freshman girl who weighs 100 pounds can eat this lunch and feel completely full, maybe even a little bloated,” said Joey Bougneit, a Mukwonago senior.

But [Nick] Blohm is a 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound linebacker. He’s also class president, and takes several Advanced Placement classes. If schools want students to perform well, he said, they can’t be sitting in their chairs hungry.

Marion Nestle, a New York University professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, writes on her blog FoodPolitics.com:

If kids aren’t eating the food because they hate it, the calorie limits hardly matter. And if kids are hungry, the remedy is simple: Eat the food.

The new lunch standards hardly call for starvation rations. Kindergarteners through fifth-graders get up to 650 calories. The maximum is 700 for kids in grades six through eight, and 850 for high schoolers. All kids can have extra servings of vegetables. This ought to be plenty to get most of today’s kids – sedentary, underactive and prone to obesity as they are – through any school day.

On her blog FakeFoodWatch.com, journalist and blogger Deborah White writes:

The Obama administration’s new school-lunch guidelines are a well-intentioned step forward, but too restrictive, too inflexible. Too extreme. And too much, too soon, to successfully wean American kids off fast food habits, and to inspire love of healthier fare.   Force is not the way to lead kids, or anyone, away from fake foods.

Perhaps worst of all, kids from low-income families can least afford to augment the often unsatisfying lunches that may be their heartiest meal of the day. Sometimes their only meal…

Also quoted in the  Journal Sentinel article is Mukwonago Area School District Food Service Supervisor Pam Harris. Harris said:

Children’s weight and poor nutrition in America are serious problems, but the changes are too abrupt.

“I could not be more passionate about this,” Harris said. “I want to solve this problem. But limiting calories in school lunch is not going to help the overweight kid. What happens at home is a major piece of that puzzle.”

In the New York Times, Jane E. Brody writes that it’s important for parents to expose children to a variety of foods and involve them in food preparation.

But schools, too, have work to do. When children learn about foods in the classroom and have hands-on experience with them, they are more likely to eat them in the lunchroom.

How about restoring kitchens run by well-trained cooks who know how to prepare nutritious and inviting meals, and offering cooking classes to boys and girls starting in the first grade? Schools today are so focused on stuffing children’s heads with facts and figures they have forgotten that a good mind needs a well-nourished (and well-exercised) body.

What’s your opinion? How are students in your school reacting to the new school lunch standards?