Category Archives: Childhood Nutrition

More than an hour of TV time can make a kindergartener a couch potato

la-sci-sn-one-hour-tv-watching-overweight-obes-001What do you think of when you hear the term “couch potato?” Most picture a rather slovenly individual spending hours in front of the television, usually accompanied by junk food. The person in that imaginary image is probably overweight, too. Can kids be couch potatoes? How much time in front of the tv would qualify? The American Academy of Pediatrics has set the recommended screen time for children at less than two hours every day. But a new study finds that an hour of television each day can put a kindergartener at risk for being overweight or obese.

Kindergarten children who watched television for more than one hour a day were 52% more likely to be overweight than their schoolmates who watched less TV, researchers said. The kids who spent at least an hour each day in front of the boob tube were also 72% more likely to be obese.

These figures are based on data from 12,650 children from around the country who started kindergarten in the fall of 2011 and were enrolled in a study run by the U.S. Department of Education. Researchers measured the height and weight of each young student (which were used to calculate their body mass index), and parents were asked how much TV time their kids got.

The average amount of time this nationally representative group of kindergartners spent watching TV was 3.3 hours. When the researchers did their statistical analysis to link time spent watching TV with weight, they controlled for factors that might have skewed the results, like gender, race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

The researchers also took into account the number of hours the kids spent using computers, but it turned out that had no correlation with the children’s BMI.

One year after they entered the study, 10,853 of the children had their height and weight measured again, and their parents updated the researchers on their television-viewing habits. The results were once again striking: Compared to the kids who watched less than an hour of TV per day, those who watched an hour or more were 39% more likely to become overweight between kindergarten and first grade. They also were 86% more likely to become obese during that time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children limit their total screen time — including time in front of the TV — to less than two hours per day. But these results suggest their advice may be overly generous.

“Given the data presented in this study, the AAP may wish to lower its recommended TV viewing allowances,” Dr. Mark DeBoer, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Virginia, said in a statement.

Kids love television. That’s no secret. There are so many great and educational shows today for kindergarten kids. FoodFacts.com knows that there’s plenty of quality viewing available. But the quality of the show has nothing to do with the effects of our kids sitting in front of a TV for hours. We found it interesting that computer habits (computers are still a screen) had no correlation to weight gain and obesity. Kids aren’t eating in front of the computer and they’re certainly not drinking anything near a keyboard. But they are while watching their favorite shows. The good news here is that parents are in control of their kindergarteners viewing habits and CAN make a big difference. Get them outside. Play a board game. Read them a book. Let them help in the kitchen. Let’s help our children view television as one of a variety of choices for how to spend their time … not the preferable one.

http://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-sn-one-hour-tv-watching-overweight-obese-20150426-story.html

Wendy’s drops soda from kids meals … sort of, but not really

WendysKidMealSorry Wendy’s. FoodFacts.com is really not trying to minimize your efforts to offer healthier options to consumers. But it’s true … a kids meal without a soda is still a kids meal. It’s still full of calories, fat and sodium, not to mention ingredients your average child can’t pronounce and doesn’t need. Plus, you really didn’t remove it, you just stopped promoting it.

Wendy’s is the latest fast-food chain to remove the soda option from kids’ meal menus.

That means when parents drive through a pick-up window, they won’t see soda as an option on the menu board, but if they decide to order one, they won’t be turned down.

The fast-food chain is the most recent to cave to pressure from children’s health advocacy groups. McDonald’s made a similar commitment to drop soda from Happy Meals in 2013, after partnering with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a group aimed at fighting childhood obesity.

The Center for Science in Public Interest released a statement Thursday saying that Wendy’s was removing the soda option from menu boards and kids’ meals.

The statement said they hoped Wendy’s would also offer healthier choices including, “whole grain rolls, offering more fruit and vegetable options, reducing sodium across the menu, and dropping Frostys from the children’s menu.”

Unlike some fast-food chains, Wendy’s default drink choice was never soda, Bob Bertini, a spokesman for Wendy’s said in an e-mail to USA TODAY Network.

“When ordering a kids’ meal, the customer is asked what beverage they prefer,” Bertini wrote. “The change is the kids’ meal beverage options which are shown on our menu boards.”

Bertini says the fast-food company began displaying images of “healthful beverage options,” including 1% white or chocolate milk, bottled water and 100% juice.

He says the kids’ meal soft drink option no longer appears on the chain’s menu boards, inside the restaurants, at the pick-up windows or on the mobile app in the U.S. and Canada.

While soda is no longer the default drink, it still remains one of the most profitable items for fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, according to Jesse Bragg, media director for Corporate Accountability International.

Bragg says nothing will be solved until the marketing practices that draw kids to fast food is curbed.

“It’s incredibly difficult to enforce on a local level in the fast food industry,” Bragg said.

For children’s health advocates the battle is far from over. In the soda wars, other restaurants such as Subway, Arby’s and Chipotle do not offer soda on the kids’ menu.

But, one of the giants is still left standing — Burger King.
“Two down, one to go,” says Howell Wechsler, chief executive officer of Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

An email statement from Burger King said the company is, “currently in the process of analyzing the removal of fountain drinks from our kids’ menu boards.”

So to clarify this “change” even more — you CAN still get a soda with a kids meal at Wendy’s. The soda is simply not being promoted on the menu boards. Nearest we can tell, that’s not much of a change. It’s not like consumers are actually being told in the store that they can no longer order a soda with the kids meal. THAT would be a change. Taking the image of the soda out of the pretty picture of the kids meal and leaving the word soda out of the kids meal description on the menu board … not so much.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2015/01/15/wendys-drops-soda-kids-meal-fast-food/21814699/

How much money does obesity cost the world? A new report claims that it’s just as much as war and terrorism.

_pek102d_4944201It’s no secret that the obesity epidemic is costing governments money. Until now though, it’s been difficult to measure exactly how expensive it’s become.

The obesity epidemic is now so widespread it is hurting economies as much as war and terrorism, new research reveals.

More than 2.1 billion people are overweight or obese – costing the world US $2 trillion a year.  And while China has lower obesity rates than advanced economies, its numbers are rising fast.

The study, published by McKinsey & Company, calculated the combined social burden by estimating the cost of health care, lost productivity and mitigating the impact of obesity.
According to the research, obesity costs US$600 billion more than alcoholism, US$1.1 trillion more than outdoor air pollution and US$1.3 trillion more than drug use. It has the same impact on the economy as war and terrorism, and is just short of having the same negative impact as smoking.

Almost 30 per cent of the world’s people are overweight or obese, more than twice the number who are undernourished.

McKinsey estimates that if obesity rates continue, almost half of the world’s adult population will be overweight or obese by 2030.

A report in medical journal The Lancet reveals China has 62 million obese people – behind only the United States.

While the battle of the bulge remains a relatively adult problem in China, obesity in children is growing at alarming rates. Almost a quarter – about 23 per cent – of Chinese boys under the age of 20 are either overweight or obese, as are 14 per cent of girls.

The prevalence of obesity in cities is up to four times that in rural areas. And obesity rates are expected to rise as incomes go up in poorer areas.

China is attempting to combat the growing obesity problem by constructing more playgrounds and making exercise mandatory in schools.

However, McKinsey argues that obesity reduction requires engagement from many sectors, including government, retailers, consumer-goods companies, restaurants, media organisations, educators and health-care providers.

It’s so important to emphasize that the obesity crisis is a global problem. FoodFacts.com also wants to emphasize that the growth of this crisis tracks closely with the enormous growth in the availability and popularity of processed foods, junk foods and fast foods across the globe. That’s not coincidental. Fat, sugar and sodium ARE the issues of the day. Controversial ingredients like high fructose corn syrup are adversely affecting our health, regardless of how the food industry attempts to explain them away.

Obesity, at its most minor level, changes people’s lifestyles in countless negative manners. At it’s worst, it causes debilitating disease and death. And it’s costing countries horrendous amounts of money for a condition that is completely preventable. It’s time to make real changes to our food supply on a global level.

http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1645764/obesity-epidemic-costs-world-much-wars-and-terrorism-report-says

Nutritionally, it’s all about the first 1,000 days of life

the-importance-of-fiber-during-pregnancy-newFoodFacts.com has devoted a lot of blog space discussing the importance of children’s nutrition. We’ve certainly had plenty of good reasons for that — the obesity epidemic has affected our kids in a profound way, compromising their health and altering their young lifestyles. Much has been done in an effort to change and ultimately reverse the crisis. School lunches are under new regulations. First Lady Michelle Obama has done a wonderful job with her groundbreaking Let’s Move campaign. We’ve even seen some major manufacturers commit to ditching artificial food colors in products our children love.

But what if we started earlier in our children’s lives? What if healthy eating started, say, at conception, and lasted throughout the first 1,000 days of a child’s life?

That is what Lucy Martinez Sullivan hopes to drill into the national and international conversation with her organization, 1,000 Days. “I realized how little attention and how little money had been focused” on this stage in life, she said.

The most important time to pay attention to a child’s nutrition is from the time of conception until they are 2 years old. Good nutrition during this critical window can change their lives, leading to better growth of brain and body.

Certainly, some of the important focuses of 1,000 Days are conditions in poorer countries without great infrastructure. But the U.S. ranks among the top 10 worst-performing countries when it comes to several major factors of child and maternal health. We are a part of this as much as anywhere else.
Sullivan is on a campaign to get the message out to decision makers, world leaders, and perhaps most important, parents.

To try to help her expand the reach of her campaign, she partnered with a woman so many of us know, Heidi Murkoff — otherwise known as the writer of the “What to Expect” books.

“The lack of interest” in the earliest years of life “is just startling,” Murkoff said. “The whole focus is on elementary school kids. They’re already 9 years old.”

Did you know, according to the Journal of Obesity in 2012, that french fries are the most common “vegetable” among 12-15 month olds in North America? With 18.5 percent of them eating fries at least once a day? Or that by 19 to 24 months, 62 percent of toddlers had eaten a baked dessert, 20 percent consumed candy, and 44 percent had consumed a sweetened beverage, according to the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism in 2013?

So while many countries that Sullivan deals with are in crisis mode because the children are undernourished, ours are poorly nourished. And that means their brains aren’t growing, they are in trouble physically, and it will be hard to dig out from under the damage already done.

So what now? As far as these two powerhouses are concerned, they will work together to try to engage the next generation of moms, policy makers and advocates to ensure a better start for babies worldwide.

Murkoff said she wants to see healthy food become more affordable and available. She wants to see more help to support breastfeeding for those who are able. “It’s a process that doesn’t come naturally,” she said. But many women want to, they just don’t know how. Or they are forced to return to work, many times to a place or shift work that doesn’t allow for pumping.

What does this mean for you and me? We need to change the way we all look at nutrition, childhood obesity and what causes a lack of good health — from the earliest days. That will help us prevent the worst diseases and health outcomes for the newest generation.

And, Murkoff noted, we have to “nurture the nurturer.”

That sentiment, Sullivan noted, will happen if we work to change policies, like a lack of paid maternity leave. How can we feed our children well, or even attempt to breastfeed them, if we have to return to work shortly after birth? How can we watch what goes into their little bodies if we can’t cobble together good childcare for those of us who do work? How can we feed them fresh fruits if we live in areas that have nothing but corner stores?

“The more we neglect populations…the more these families get locked into a cycle of bad health,” Sullivan said. “We need to set moms up to succeed.”

There’s so much critical information that’s revealed here. The research cited is fairly astounding. And it certainly points to the idea that we can do so much better for our children here in the U.S. We can remember when people were appalled when ketchup was considered a vegetable in school cafeterias and now we’re finding out that french fries are the most common “vegetable” for a substantial percentage of one-year-olds. It’s absolutely time to focus more energy on the nutritional quality of diets for the youngest among us. We’ll be doing so much for the health of future generations — and, in doing so, we’ll have a better opportunity reverse the obesity crisis once and for all.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2014/10/21/good-nutrition-during-the-first-1000-days-of-life-is-critically-important/

90% of children in the United States are eating too much salt!

?????????????????????????????????????More news about the over consumption of salt here in the United States … and it’s definitely not what we want to hear.

American kids are eating far too much salt, mostly from processed foods sold in stores, putting them at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease later in life, federal health officials said last week.

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 90 percent of American children ages 6 to 18 consume too much sodium daily.

Those children eat an average of about 3,300 mg of sodium daily even before salt is added at the table, according to the CDC study based on national surveys in 2009 and 2010. That exceeds dietary guidelines calling for less than 2,300 mg per day.

The CDC noted that one in six young Americans already has elevated blood pressure – a condition closely linked to high sodium intake and obesity that can lead to heart attack and stroke.

The report found that 43 percent of the sodium came from 10 popular types of foods, including pizza, sandwiches like cheeseburgers, cold cuts and cured meats, pasta with sauce, cheese, salty snacks like potato chips, chicken nuggets and patties, tacos and burritos, bread and soup.

“Most sodium is from processed and restaurant food, not the salt shaker,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “Reducing sodium intake will help our children avoid tragic and expensive health problems.”

Dinner was the largest single source of sodium, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the daily intake, the study found.

The report said 65 percent of the sodium intake came from foods purchased in stores, with most of the sodium already in the products when purchased. Fast food restaurants including pizza places accounted for another 13 percent, the CDC said.

Meals offered at school accounted for 9 percent of total sodium consumption. Teenagers ate more sodium than younger children, according to the study that drew from interviews with more than 2,000 school-aged children.

The study found a need to reduce sodium “across multiple foods, venues and eating occasions,” the CDC researchers said. In particular, processed foods should have less sodium, the researchers said, citing efforts in Britain that reduced total sodium consumption
by 15 percent over seven years.

This new information is so concerning for future generations of Americans. FoodFacts.com wants to emphasize that this report echos the idea that the majority of sodium in our diets does not come from the salt shakers on our kitchen tables. Instead, sodium is coming from the processed foods on our grocery shelves, restaurants and fast food restaurants. Our kids are not strangers to any of those sources. And the list detailed here is pretty eye-opening. While we can’t confine our kids to our kitchens, we can commit to cooking more fresh, healthy foods in our homes and making them readily available to our children. Our kids’ healthy futures depend on it.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/09/09/in-10-us-children-eat-too-much-salt-says-cdc/

Parents: here’s another great reason to spend more time in your own kitchen!

cooking togetherHere at FoodFacts.com, we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of preparing meals at home. You know the reasons we’re such strong proponents of home cooking — better ingredients, less salt, less sugar and healthier fats are among the finer points. But we should never forget to include the idea that home-cooked meals that utilize fresh ingredients win on flavor over processed foods every single time.

For parents, especially, cooking at home is a significant aspect of raising healthy kids. With the obesity crisis at unprecedented levels, home cooking makes a real difference in the lives of our children. It also helps our kids develop a taste for foods that aren’t chicken nuggets so that they’ll actually embrace the vegetables and fruits that are an important part of their healthy diet. It seems that new information has revealed that eating home-cooked meals does exactly that!

Research to be presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, suggests that the amount time parents spend on food preparation at home influences children’s food intake decisions made in the laboratory without parental supervision.

“In general, research shows that children tend to eat inadequate amounts of nutrient-rich foods while eating large amounts of sugary and fatty foods,” Shehan said. “It’s encouraging to see that parents can possibly affect the quality of their children’s food choices outside the home by spending more time cooking.”

The main findings showed that children whose parents reported more time spent on food preparation at home independently chose to eat meals that were lower in energy density (a measure of calories per gram) than children whose parents reported less food preparation time. In other words, the children whose parents reported more time on food preparation tended to make healthier food choices in the lab than children whose parents spent less time at home on food preparation, even without parental supervision.

The study, conducted through Penn State’s Department of Food Science and Department of Nutritional Sciences, involved 61 children between ages 4 and 6 and their parents. Each family in the study participated in two laboratory visits, where children tasted and rated their liking of a variety of foods and were then given unlimited access to these foods without adult instruction or interference. Children were allowed to eat as much or as little of any of the foods presented, which included highly energy dense foods such as chicken nuggets and chocolate chip cookies, as well as lower calorie foods such as grapes and broccoli. Meanwhile, parents completed questionnaires addressing various topics including their home food environment, their child’s food preferences and habits, and their family’s socioeconomic status.

To elucidate the neural mechanisms of such age-related changes in taste preference and sensitivity, electrophysiological experiments examined taste response characteristics of chorda tympani nerves. These nerves mediate gustatory information from the tongue to the brainstem. The researchers observed no significant differences in activity of the chorda tympani nerves by taste stimuli across the different age groups.

This research suggests parental home food preparation may influence children’s food intake patterns, even when children are eating outside the home. Future research studies are needed to see whether encouraging increased amounts of home food preparation or teaching parents food preparation skills will improve children’s eating habits.

“Even after controlling for family income and whether or not children had a parent at home full time, we found that children whose parents spend more time cooking make better choices,” Shehan added. “Our food preferences develop early in life, so getting young children to eat nutritious foods can help them stay healthy in the long run.

What we serve at home appears to develop taste preferences in children and that’s important. We all know kids love chocolate chip cookies, but that broccoli you’re preparing, or that whole grain pasta with vegetables that they really love — they’re going to look for those foods when they aren’t at home, too. And for every parent that’s struggled to find the time to put a home-cooked healthy meal on the table at the long day, that’s a great motivation to continue those healthy habits for the whole family!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729224914.htm

Third annual Kids’ State Dinner (yes there is one) promotes healthy eating and features the recipes of prize-winning junior chefs

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 1.09.30 PMFor the last three years, our President and First Lady have been hosting a yearly Kids’ State Dinner. This little-known event is just one of the fun, interesting and effective ways Michelle Obama has found to promote healthy eating and fitness to our nation’s youth. The guests at the “dinner” (which is actually a lunch) are the winners of a yearly contest that invites kids across the nation to develop their own healthy recipes and submit them for the opportunity to dine at the White House with the First Family. It’s hands-on, engaging and offers a once-in-a-lifetime prize!

Chef Elena Hirsch’s winning omelet recipe—aptly titled “Barack-oli and Mich-room Obama-let” —landed the 11-year-old her seat at this annual event.

Hirsch is one of the winners of the 2014 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge contest. The contest asks children ages 8 to 12 to submit healthy lunchtime recipes of their own creation. Winners and their parents or guardians are then flown to D.C., put up in a hotel, and entertained at the Kids’ State Dinner, which is hosted by first lady Michelle Obama and organized by Epicurious, the Department of Education, and the Department of Agriculture.

This year’s winners—who hail from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories—beat out close to 1,500 other entrants to come to the White House, where they were treated to a special performance from Disney’s “The Lion King” musical and a lively address from President Barack Obama.

“First of all, we have a lot of state dinners around here,” the president quipped. “They’re not always as cheerful and fun as this.”

Obama also revealed his greatest food weakness — chips and guacamole. Although his jokes yesterday might have led you to believe it was a shared milkshake.

Michelle vowed to give up french fries, her greatest food weakness, during her speech.

Notwithstanding its name, the Kids’ State Dinner is actually lunch—(after all, “State Lunch” doesn’t exactly scream presidential)— and the noontime menu features several of the winning recipes. This year, that included chicken lettuce wraps, tomato cucumber salad and “Tropical Strawberry Banana Secret Smoothies.”

The 54 winning recipes were judged based on taste, creativity, affordability, chef’s personal story, and, of course, Michelle’s pet project — MyPlate nutritional standards.

Chef Tess Boghossian, 11, from Illinois won for her healthy rendition of a soup served at Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.

Chef Elena, creator of the “Obama-let,” said that it took her five days to come up with an omelet recipe that honored the members of the first family. In addition to “Barack-oli” and “Mich-rooms,” her recipe calls for car-MALIA-ized onions and butternut SquASHA, in honor of first daughters Malia and Sasha. All that was missing was first dog Bo.

FoodFacts.com can recall plenty of research that links involving children in a healthy lifestyle to their positive response to healthy foods and healthy habits. In addition to the idea that the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge is a great project that involves kids in the process of making healthy choices, it also makes that process truly memorable for them! What a great event and what a great way to make a healthy impression on the kids of our country!

http://redalertpolitics.com/2014/07/18/michelle-obama-uses-third-annual-kids-state-dinner-contest-promote-healthy-eating-promises-give-french-fries/

Childhood obesity: there’s more than a physical price to pay

Cost of Childhood ObesityWhile there has been some good news recently regarding the obesity crisis, there’s still a long way to go. With about one in every three children and teens in the U.S. either overweight or obese, there are many health concerns related to childhood obesity. This life-altering condition is a burden for the millions of children affected by it, both emotionally and physically.

Now, we’re learning more details about the financial burden as well.

For the first time, the costs of the condition, called “one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization, have been quantified by researchers. The findings are shocking: The epidemic has an estimated $19,000 price tag per child.

The cost analysis was led by researchers at the Duke Global Health Institute and Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore, who measured direct medical costs, such as doctors’ visits and medication. Additional costs, such as lost productivity due to obesity, were not included.

The figure becomes more frightening when the number of obese children in the U.S. is taken into account: Lifetime medical costs for 10-year-olds alone reach $14 billion.
With this new research, the incentive to reduce childhood obesity comes with economic benefits in addition to health, said Eric Andrew Finkelstein, the lead author of the study.
“These estimates provide the financial consequences of inaction and the potential medical savings from obesity prevention efforts that successfully reduce or delay obesity onset,” he said.

Though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers last year touting a surprising 43 percent drop in obesity rates among two- to five-year-olds in the last decade, they don’t take into account the bigger picture. Obesity rates still go up as children age. The condition is also associated with premature death later in life and remains a global epidemic.

FoodFacts.com tries to keep our community up to date with news and research regarding the obesity crisis. As we said, there’s still so much work to do. As our children’s caregivers, it’s up to us to begin healthy habits for them right from the start. Fresh, real foods and plenty of activity should help to set them up for a healthier life that doesn’t include the emotional, physical and financial problems connected with obesity.

http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/04/12/childhood-obesity-epidemic-costing-almost-20000-child

More kids are eating more fruits and vegetables at lunch

lunches.jpgThere’s news coming in about the effect of the new nutritional guidelines for U.S. schools and it does appear to be encouraging. New standards went into effect in 2012 that required students to include at least one fruit or vegetable on their lunch trays.

A new study that’s been released from the Harvard School of Public Health  clearly shows that there are students who are eating more fruits and vegetables at lunch. Of course, they’re still tossing plenty of produce into the trash, researchers are taking the results as an encouraging sign.

While the study is limited to 1,030 students at low-income elementary and middle schools in the Boston area, it is the first to track student trays from the lunch line to the trash can since the new standards became effective.

In addition to requiring the addition of a fruit or vegetable with lunch, the standards have made vegetable servings bigger and have provided a greater variety of vegetables from which students can choose. They also limit calories and sodium and call for more whole grains than in the past. Some anecdotal reports suggest students nationwide are throwing away more food as a result.

“But the new standards are actually improving diets,” at least at the schools studied, says lead researcher Juliana Cohen.

Research teams visited each school twice before the changes, in fall 2011, and twice after the changes, in fall 2012. They noted tray contents in the lunch line and then collected the numbered trays and weighed the leftovers after lunch. Among key findings:

• All students took entrees, which included foods such as pizza, burgers and sandwich wraps. They ate 88% of those foods in 2012, vs. 72% in 2011.
• 68% took vegetables in both years. They ate 41% in 2012, vs. 25% in 2011.
• 76% took fruit in 2012, up from 53% in 2011. They ate 55% in 2012, down slightly from 58% in 2011 – but because more students chose fruit, overall consumption rose, researchers say.

Kids threw away huge amounts of fruits and vegetables, but the study shows that was happening before the change, Cohen says.

The findings come as school food service directors, represented by the School Nutrition Association, are in Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress to eliminate mandatory servings of fruits and vegetables and slow down other changes. They cite a report just out from the U.S. Government Accountability Office showing a 3.7% decline in students taking school lunches.

“Our members have always encouraged students to take fruits and vegetables, but it’s counterproductive to force it,” especially for older students, says Leah Schmidt, president of the association and director of nutrition services at the Hickman Mills School District in Kansas City, Mo. “There are students who will not eat a fruit or vegetable, and as they get older, they feel they have that right.”

She says the new study is “a very small sample… but I’m glad some schools are experiencing that” increase in fruit and vegetable consumption.

“Kids are picky,” and change is hard, says Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group that fought for tougher standards. Schools can reduce waste and get more kids on board without weakening the standards, she says.

“Many schools are working really hard not only to improve the nutritional quality of their offerings but to improve the kid appeal,” she says.

Those of us with children might think back to our pediatrician’s advice when it came to feeding our toddlers. It was simply to offer a variety of healthy food choices for them to try. Improving the nutritional quality of the food choices in our schools and offering a wider variety of fruits and vegetables actually echoes the advice given to parents for their little ones.

When schools followed the new rules and offered foods with better nutritional value, our kids made better choices at lunch because the choices given were better. In addition, when required to choose a fruit or a vegetable while being given a wider array of selections, more kids actually ate the fruit or vegetable. FoodFacts.com does think this is largely about the choices given. Yes, we know that there’s still plenty of produce that finds its way to the trash can, but we certainly don’t think we should be taking steps to reverse or slow down any of these changes. We know most children aren’t ecstatic about fruits and vegetables. Whatever we can do to help them eat more of them during lunch should be done. And we should all feel encouraged that there are some indications that lunch habits seem to be improving.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/04/school-lunch-rules-vegetables-fruit/5979683/

Finally, some good news in the midst of the obesity crisis

198561_10150136837518407_7743506_n.jpgThere are real efforts being made in the fight against obesity, but it’s still a global crisis affecting millions. While FoodFacts.com has devoted many blog posts to research findings and changes to government nutrition standards for our schools, the data has remained fairly negative. Today though, we can report on some significant data that may indicate a turning of the tides here in the U.S.

New federal data published Tuesday show a 43 percent drop in obesity rates among children ages 2 to 5 during the past decade, providing an encouraging sign in the fight against one of the country’s leading public health problems, officials said.
The finding comes from a government study considered a gold standard to measure public-health trends. Researchers found that just over 8 percent of children 2 to 5 were obese in 2011-2012, down from nearly 14 percent in 2003-2004. Although the drop was significant, federal health officials noted that obesity rates for the broader population remain unchanged, and for women older than 60, obesity rates rose about 21 percent during that period.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, comes on the heels of data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found that obesity rates among low-income preschoolers participating in federal nutrition programs declined broadly from 2008 to 2011 after rising for decades.

Cynthia Ogden, a CDC epidemiologist and lead author of the most recent study, said that the data offer good news in at least one age group.

“We see hope in young kids,” she said.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey tracks obesity data by measuring height and weight. The data are released every two years.

CDC officials said that last year’s data represented the largest and most comprehensive report of declining obesity rates in poor children. Nineteen states and U.S. territories had a lower percentage of obese children ages 2 to 4.

“We continue to see signs that, for some children in this country, the scales are tipping,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. Federal researchers have also seen encouraging signs from communities across the country with obesity-prevention programs, including Anchorage, Philadelphia, New York City and King County, Wash., he said.

“This confirms that at least for kids, we can turn the tide and begin to reverse the obesity epidemic,” Frieden said.

Researchers say that they don’t know the precise reasons behind the drop in obesity rates for children 2 to 5. But they noted that many child-care centers have started to improve nutrition and physical activity standards over the past few years. Ogden said that CDC data also show decreases in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages among youth in recent years.

Another possible factor might be improvement in breastfeeding rates in the United States, which helps fight obesity.

In a statement, first lady Michelle Obama praised the progress in lowering obesity rates among young children and said that participation in her Let’s Move! program was encouraging healthier habits.

A child is considered obese if his or her body mass index, calculated using weight and height, is at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex, according to CDC growth charts.

The new information is certainly encouraging and the findings of declining consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages for young children is very good news! We’re hopeful that in future reports, we’ll be able to observe significant decreases in obesity for other age groups. Proposed changes to nutrition labels and the possible ban on trans fat in our food supply may prove to have positive effects for the entire population.

Good news about the obesity crisis … it’s a nice change!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/new-cdc-data-shows-43-percent-drop-in-obesity-rates-among-children-2-to-5/2014/02/25/b5b3a3fa-9e65-11e3-9ba6-800d1192d08b_story.html