Category Archives: children

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

Reading difficulties may be related to low levels of Omega-3

While it isn’t in the news often, FoodFacts.com is aware that there are millions of school-aged children worldwide who have difficulty learning to read and mastering proficiency of this basic life skill. We’re also very aware that often reading difficulties can severely affect a child’s self-esteem, make them more prone to bullying by other kids and change their perception of learning in general. Our hearts go out to these kids. We know that their parents, caregivers and teachers work very hard to help them develop their reading skills and that they are required to work much harder than their peers to achieve the same learning levels. It can’t be easy. Today we read about new research coming out of the United Kingdom that may hold some significant information (and eventually help) for kids with reading challenges.

An Oxford University study has shown that a representative sample of UK schoolchildren aged seven to nine years had low levels of key Omega-3 fatty acids in their blood. Furthermore, the study found that children’s blood levels of the long-chain Omega-3 DHA (the form found in most abundance in the brain) ‘significantly predicted’ how well they were able to concentrate and learn.

The study was presented at the conference by co-authors Dr Alex Richardson and Professor Paul Montgomery from Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Intervention in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention. It is one of the first to evaluate blood Omega-3 levels in UK schoolchildren. The long-chain Omega-3 fats (EPA and DHA) found in fish, seafood and some algae, are essential for the brain’s structure and function as well as for maintaining a healthy heart and immune system. Parents also reported on their child’s diet, revealing to the researchers that almost nine out of ten children in the sample ate fish less than twice a week, and nearly one in ten never ate fish at all. The government’s guidelines for a healthy diet recommend at least two portions of fish a week. This is because like vitamins, omega-3 fats have to come from our diets — and although humans can in theory make some EPA and DHA from shorter-chain omega-3 (found in some vegetable oils), research has shown this conversion is not reliable, particularly for DHA, say the researchers.

Blood samples were taken from 493 schoolchildren, aged between seven and nine years, from 74 mainstream schools in Oxfordshire. All of the children were thought to have below-average reading skills, based on national assessments at the age of seven or their teachers’ current judgements. Analyses of their blood samples showed that, on average, just under two per cent of the children’s total blood fatty acids were Omega-3 DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) and 0.5 per cent were Omega-3 EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid), with a total of 2.45 per cent for these long-chain Omega-3 combined. This is below the minimum of 4 per cent recommended by leading scientists to maintain cardiovascular health in adults, with 8-12 per cent regarded as optimal for a healthy heart, the researchers reported.

Co-author Professor Paul Montgomery said: ‘From a sample of nearly 500 schoolchildren, we found that levels of Omega-3 fatty acids in the blood significantly predicted a child’s behavior and ability to learn. Higher levels of Omega-3 in the blood, and DHA in particular, were associated with better reading and memory, as well as with fewer behavior problems as rated by parents and teachers. These results are particularly noteworthy given that we had a restricted range of scores, especially with respect to blood DHA but also for reading ability, as around two-thirds of these children were still reading below their age-level when we assessed them. Although further research is needed, we think it is likely that these findings could be applied generally to schoolchildren throughout the UK.’
The current findings build on earlier work by the same researchers, showing that dietary supplementation with Omega-3 DHA improved both reading progress and behavior in children from the general school population who were behind on their reading.

FoodFacts.com is enthusiastic about the future implications of these important findings. We already understand the significance of a healthy diet for children. We know that childhood obesity is a rampant, worldwide problem and that poor diet during childhood can set up a generation of children for severe health problems later on in life. The importance of Omega-3 fatty acids in a child’s diet, however, may have a strong influence on their educational abilities and might just promote the “ease of learning” that every child deserves.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130913092414.htm

Severe obesity rising among American youth

FoodFacts.com makes every effort to keep our community up to date on the latest news regarding the obesity crisis. We’ve got a long road ahead of us as we, as a nation and a world, attempt to reverse a trend that’s making our population prone to preventable conditions and diseases. Sadly, the news we read today speaks to the idea that we aren’t where we need to be in order to realize the turn-around we so desperately need.

About 5 percent of U.S. children and teens are “severely obese,” and the numbers are rising, according to a new statement from the American Heart Association.

Although recent data suggesting that the rate of childhood obesity has started to level off, “a worrisome trend has emerged in the form of severe pediatric obesity,” the researchers wrote in their study published today (Sept. 9) in the journal Circulation.

“Severe obesity in young people has grave health consequences,” said study author Aaron Kelly, a researcher at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis. “It’s a much more serious childhood disease than obesity.”

Severely obese children have higher rates of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular issues at younger ages, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and early signs of atherosclerosis – a disease that clogs the arteries.

Treating children and teens with of severe obesity is challenging, the researchers said. Many treatments that are commonly used with some success in overweight and obese children, such as lifestyle changes, are less effective in those with severe obesity.
The researchers recommended using a standard definition for severe obesity in youth; they define children over age 2 as severely obese if they have a body mass index (BMI) at least 20 percent higher than 95 percent of other children of the same age and gender. The researchers also said any child with a BMI of 35 or higher should be considered severely obese.

Based on this definition, a 7-year-old girl of average height weighing 75 pounds, or a 13-year-old boy of average height weighing 160 pounds, would be defined as severely obese.

Most experts recommend treating severely obese children first with the least intensive treatment options such as lifestyle changes, the researchers said. More intensive treatments such as medication and potentially surgery should be considered after other treatments have failed.

Increased funding will be needed for research into whether new medications and other treatments, including surgery, are safe and effective in treating children with severe obesity, the researchers said.

FoodFacts.com will continue to follow news and research regarding the obesity crisis. We know there will continue to be reasons for hope and encouragement as new research leads us to the kinds of treatment that will have a lasting and positive effect, finally reversing the existing trends of the growing crisis.

http://www.livescience.com/39509-severe-obesity-youth.html

Yet another reason children and soda don’t mix

Everyone in the FoodFacts.com community is very familiar with our view of soda. We don’t like it. There are quite a few different reasons and we can name some of them readily – high fructose corn syrup, sodium benzoate, phosphoric acid, artificial colors, artificial flavors, aspartame, acesulfame potassium and those really are just a few. Trust us, we could go on and on. Sodas offer no nutritional value and a myriad of possible problems. And today we read a new study that has just added a new possible problem to an already long list.

It appears that soda may cause young children to become aggressive and develop attention problems, according to a study published in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, the University of Vermont and Harvard School of Public Health, studied around 3,000 children aged 5.

All children were enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study – a cohort study that follows mothers and children from 20 large cities in the US.

The researchers asked the mothers of the children to report their child’s soft drink consumption. Their child’s behavior in the 2 months prior to the study was reported through a “Child Behavior Checklist.”

Just over 40% of the children consumed a minimum of one serving of soft drinks a day, while 4% consumed four or more soft drinks a day.

The study results found that any level of soft drink consumption was linked to higher levels of aggressive behavior, as well as more attention and withdrawal problems.

Compared with children who did not consume any soft drinks, those who had four or more soft drinks a day were over twice as likely to:

• Destroy other people’s belongings
• Physically attack others, and
• Get into fights.

Dr. Shakira Suglia, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, says: “We found that the child’s aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day.”

The study authors say there has been a lot of research on the effects of soft drinks in adults. But the relationship between soft drinks and child behavior has not been closely evaluated until now.

They note that although their study has been unable to identify exactly why soft drinks can cause these behaviors in children, they recommend that limiting or abolishing a child’s soft drink consumption could combat this issue.

FoodFacts.com looks forward to more detailed studies that focus on a possible causal relationship between children’s soda consumption and aggressive behavior. Drinking soda has been linked to diabetes and heart disease. It is considered a major contributor in the obesity crisis. And it adds nothing to our health and well-being. Those statements alone are good enough reasons to keep sodas away from our children. This study certainly points out additional problems with small children and soda consumption. Children require a healthy beginning in order to encourage healthy habits throughout their lifetime. Let’s help them get the healthy start they all deserve.

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264943.php

Food advertising on children’s websites doesn’t meet current nutritional standards

FoodFacts.com has featured our share of blog posts reviewing the ongoing battle to increase the quality of advertising foods targeted to children. In the past food companies have pledged to self-regulate the ads they are placing in the media, promising to promote healthier products for kids.

A new study out of the Yale Rudd Center and published online in Pediatric Obesity, finds that companies are placing billions of ads for unhealthy foods and beverages on children’s websites. The study evaluated banner ads and other display web advertising on sites that are popular with children – sites like Nick.com and CartoonNetwork.com. It’s the first study that looks closely at food advertising on the web that’s specifically aimed at children.

Rudd Center researchers used syndicated Internet usage data from comScore to identify popular children’s websites and the food advertisements viewed on those web sites from July 2009 through June 2010. Food ads were classified by category and the companies’ participation in the food industry’s self-regulatory program, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Researchers also evaluated the nutritional quality of the advertised products. Most large food companies are a part of the CFBAI and have pledged to promote only healthier food choices in advertising targeted to children. Web advertising is included in that pledge.

Researchers found that 3.4 billion display advertisements for food and beverages were viewed on popular children’s websites annually. More than one-half of these ads appeared on just two Viacom sites: Nick.com and NeoPets.com. Children who visited NeoPets.com viewed on average 30 food ads per month. Food Manufacturers who are a part of the CFBAI placed 89% of the food advertisements on children’s websites.

Three-quarters of the advertisements promoted brands that food companies participating in CFBAI identified as healthier dietary choices for child-directed advertising, yet the products in 84% of those ads had high levels of fat, sugar, and/or sodium. Almost two-thirds of food ads were for sugary breakfast cereals and fast food. Researchers noted that advertised foods that were designated by CFBAI companies as healthier dietary choices appropriate for child-directed advertising were less likely to meet nutrition standards proposed by the government than other foods advertised to children.

To address limitations of the CFBAI, the U.S. Congress commissioned an Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) with representatives from four government agencies to develop more effective guidelines for responsible food marketing to children. The authors assert that stronger nutrition standards are required for foods marketed to children, such as those proposed by the IWG, to meaningfully improve the nutritional quality of food and beverage advertising on children’s web sites.

There have been previous studies conducted in regards to food advertising on television that’s targeted to children. Those studies have shown that the self-regulatory concept of the CFBAI haven’t changed much on TV in terms of the nutritional quality of the foods marketed to kids. This study demonstrates that CFBAI pledges aren’t protecting children from web advertising of nutritionally poor foods. While the content of websites like Nick.com and CartoonNetwork.com are safe and engaging for children, over one-third of the food advertising that kids are seeing constantly on those sites are for foods that contain high levels of sugar, fat or sodium.

FoodFacts.com knows that any parent who has taken a child to a grocery store understands how much food advertising affects our kids. If it looked cool and fun on TV or on the internet, kids beg their parents to purchase the product. The point is that healthy foods can also be cool and fun and manufacturers can be more responsible about the products to which they are exposing our children. While we certainly understand that content is king for any website, when it comes to websites for children, adults need to consider more than the safety of the content their children are engaging with. When it comes to giving our children the healthiest start in life, ads count too. Let’s all practice viewing media choices for children through the lens of nutritional awareness!

http://news.yale.edu/2013/07/08/foods-advertised-popular-childrens-websites-do-not-meet-nutrition-standards

A new strategy for nutritional awareness in children

FoodFacts.com knows that most of us find ourselves sounding just like our parents with our own children at the dinner table. “Eat your vegetables!” It’s the admonition most heard at dinner time, much to the chagrin of millions of children. We painstakingly prepare vegetables in manners we think will make them more palatable for kids, trying our hardest to get them used to the flavors we know are so important for their health and well-being.

So what’s the deal, anyway? Thinking back on it, we probably weren’t the best vegetable-eaters ourselves when we were children. Now we think they can be delicious components of meals, or even meals themselves! Perhaps our own nutritional awareness expanded (as well as our taste buds) as we grew older.

Now there’s new research that suggests that teaching children nutritional awareness may actually help them develop an appreciation for healthy foods earlier. Coming out of Stanford University and published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the research began by hypothesizing that preschoolers would be capable of understanding a more conceptual idea of nutrition.

Based on the idea that young children have a natural curiosity and desire to understand why and how things work, the researchers developed five storybooks that simplified various nutrition-related themes. These included dietary variety, digestion, food categories, microscopic nutrients and nutrients as fuel for biological functions.

The researchers assigned some preschool classrooms to read nutrition books during snack time for about 3 months, while other classrooms were assigned to conduct snack time as usual. Later, the preschoolers were asked questions about nutrition.

The children who had been read the nutrition books were more likely to understand that food had nutrients, and that different kinds of nutrients were important for various bodily functions (even functions that weren’t mentioned in the books). They were also more knowledgeable about digestive processes, understanding, for example, that the stomach breaks down food and blood carries nutrients.

These children also more than doubled their voluntary intake of vegetables during snack time after the three-month intervention, whereas the amount that the control group ate stayed about the same.

When the conceptual program was pitted against a more conventional teaching strategy focused on the enjoyment of healthy eating and trying new foods, the results showed that both interventions led to increased vegetable consumption. Yet, the children in the conceptual program showed more knowledge about nutrition and a greater overall increase in vegetable consumption.

Subsequent research is needed to confirm whether nutritional interventions like these can encourage healthy eating habits in children over the long-term, but the researchers are confident that these results show promise.

FoodFacts.com knows that our children are smart, small humans. They grow increasingly smarter over the generations. We also believe strongly that nutritional awareness is the key to our population’s successful adaptation to healthier lifestyle habits. Teaching our young children the concepts of healthy eating at their own level may have more beneficial effects than simply telling them to eat their vegetables at every meal. And we’ll be empowering them for making a lifetime of healthy eating choices!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130701135600.htm

The right nutritional beginning can be kind to your heart

Everyone in the FoodFacts.com community knows that we’ve always advocated for the healthiest possible start for our children. With childhood obesity on the rise, we understand that now more than ever it’s so important for parents and caregivers of small children to pay careful attention to the foods they consume. Today we found new information that speaks directly to the importance of healthy beginnings.

A new study in the TARGet Kids! practice-based research network in Toronto, Ontario has shown that eating behaviors in preschool children may be associated with risk for cardiovascular disease later in life.

The study of more than 1,000 preschool aged children (3 to 5 years old) looked at the link between eating habits and HDL cholesterol levels (a marker for later cardiovascular disease risk)Parents filled out questionnaires addressing eating behaviors – things like watching television while eating, dietary intake, parental concerns about activity levels and growth, screen time and vitamin usage. Researchers measured height and weight of the kids and their parents and took blood samples. They assigned a risk level based on the ethnicity of the parents because some groups are more prone to heart disease than others.

The results revealed a link between eating behaviors and cardiovascular risk. That association may lead to early intervention measures. The results support previous calls for interventions that are aimed at improving the dietary habits of preschool-aged children. Some of those interventions can include responsive feeding. This would be a child-directed method where parents provide healthy food choices and children use internal cues for hunger, taking advantage of those healthy food choices. The eating styles of many children are parent directed –. breakfast served at a specific time in the morning, a mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack and dinner. Children fed in this manner do not develop a natural response to internal hunger cues. In addition, children can respond to cues from the television, encouraging them to eat. Often these cues lead the child and determine for them the timing and amount of food they consume.

This interesting survey certainly reinforces the concept that good nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices begin quite early. The youngest among us deserve the most careful attention when it comes to their dietary choices. FoodFacts.com encourages our community to offer fresh, healthy foods to the children they love. Good habits are easy to form. Start them young on the path to a healthy life and watch them grow into strong, happy and product adults. http://blog.foodfacts.com/baby-section

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/262084.php

9-year old calls out McDonald’s CEO, tells him his company is tricking kids

FoodFacts.com loves hearing stories about consumers making a real difference in the issues surrounding our food supply. We applaud nutritionally-conscious consumers who speak their mind and make their voices heard. And we especially applaud situations where those voices are coming to us loud and clear from the youngest generations. FoodFacts.com salutes those young people with the strength and courage to make their opinions count at early ages.

Recently, McDonalds CEO Don Thompson had the pleasure of being put on the spot by just such a nutrition-conscious consumer – 9 year-old Hannah Robertson from Oakbrook, Illinois. Hannah’s mom, Kia is a kid’s nutritional activist. She created an interactive children’s nutrition game called “Today I Ate a Rainbow”. Hannah’s apple didn’t fall far from Kia’s tree – Hannah stood up in front of the CEO of one of the wolrd’s biggest brands and gave him a piece of her mind at the McDonald’s annual shareholders meeting.
“There are things in life that aren’t fair — like when your pet dies,” said Hannah, who spoke with great confidence. “I don’t think it’s fair when big companies try to trick kids into eating food. It isn’t fair that so many kids my age are getting sick,” she said — blaming McDonald’s for unfairly targeting kids with advertisements for food that isn’t good for them.

Hannah ended her time-limited comments, made during the meeting’s question-and-answer session, by pointedly but politely asking: “Mr. Thompson, don’t you want kids to be healthy so they can live a long and healthy life?”

Mr. Thompson responded to Hannah, telling her that McDonald’s doesn’t sell junk food and that his own kids eat McDonald’s.

He explained that he, too, watches what his kids eat. “We cook lots of fruits and veggies at home,” he said. He also noted that McDonald’s sells fruits (apple slices in kids meals) and veggies (including side salads on the Dollar Menu). He also said that McDonald’s recently began to sell fat-free chocolate milk. Mr. Thompson thanked Hannah for her comments and told her he thought it was great that she wants to eat more fruits and veggies.

His response to this brave and well spoken young girl was basically a non-response. But sadly for Mr. Thompson the issue of improving childhood nutrition and fighting childhood obesity isn’t going anywhere. And while FoodFacts.com understands that McDonald’s has tried to make changes to improve its menu … well, let’s just say that we’re not quite as concerned about the calorie count of their menu items as we are about what’s lurking in the ingredient lists of said menu items.

So, Mr. Thompson, we think you should listen to Hannah and avoid telling her that your company isn’t selling junk food. We actually think you might want to review the ingredient lists for some of your “healthier” menu items like the Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken or the Fruit and Maple Oatmeal. Then you should take a look at your company’s most popular children’s offering, Chicken McNuggets. Hannah has a point, Mr. Thompson. We think you should start listening.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2013/05/23/mcdonalds-ceo-don-thompson-childhood-nutrition/2355129/

What’s happening now: how new federal regulations are changing school lunch menus

FoodFacts.com is happy to report that as our children are getting ready to go back to school, or are already beginning their new academic year, there are many changes happening in their cafeterias nationwide. Those changes aren’t just happening to the menus offered in our schools, they’re also affecting how school lunch workers are approaching their jobs … which may just turn out to be the key to instilling healthier eating habits in cafeterias.

Here are the basics of the changes you can expect:

• Maximum weekly calorie and sodium limits have been established for different student age groups. The limits for sodium intake are being gradually phased in over the coming decade, but there are changes that have been made for this school year. Establish maximum calorie and sodium limits for meals. The sodium limits are phased in over 10 years.

•Schools must now serve a fruit and vegetable every day at lunch and in larger portions than offered before. Portion sizes vary by age group. For instance, high school students will have to be offered one cup of vegetables and one cup of fruit a day.

•Additionally, they must now offer a minimum number of leafy green vegetables, red/orange vegetables, starchy vegetables and legumes per week. These serving sizes will also vary by student age – in high school, kids must be offered at least half a cup.

• After the second year of the new regulations, all grains offered to students must be rich in whole grains such as brown rice. Breads, buns, cereals and pastas must list whole grain as the first ingredient.

• Flavored milk, such as chocolate, must now be fat-free.

•There can be no trans fat at all in any foods offered.

Of course, you’ll still be seeing some familiar items on the menus … there will be cheese pizza and submarine sandwiches … but these offerings will be prepared using whole wheat dough and whole wheat rolls. And, unfortunately, French fries wills still count as a vegetable – but they will be baked or roasted and not fried and will have less salt on them than before. And none of the new regulations deal with ingredient lists or preservatives(excepting the exclusion of products containing trans fat), but it is at least a starting point that can be built on in the coming years.

The good news is that the School Nutrition Association has been holding conferences for cafeteria workers to help them take an active role in student lunch choices. Here they are being encouraged to actively motivate kids to make healthier choices on the lunch line. Part of that will be marketing the food to the children. Everything from how the food is laid out on the line and how it is labeled will hopefully be very different. For instance, give the vegetable of the day a more interesting name than just the vegetable itself so that the label holds more attraction for the students. Place baskets of fruits and veggies by the checkout – instead of unhealthier options. There’s research that proves that kids are more apt to pick up the grab and go item at the checkout than when it’s placed elsewhere. But most importantly, the workers are being encouraged to speak with the kids about the foods being offered that day … to promote them by interacting with the kids, just as though they were the wait staff at a restaurant promoting daily specials to customers.

Overall, FoodFacts.com thinks these efforts are a wonderful beginning for our kids in the cafeteria line. After all, what good is revamping the lunch choices if those choices remain uneaten? With better choices and a little encouragement, we may very well see kids at every grade level becoming more adventurous with their lunch line selections. And it’s possible that as the program moves forward, we can advocate for further regulations regarding the products chosen based on their ingredient lists.

Read more:
http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/diet-nutrition/story/2012-01-25/Government-requires-more-fruits-veggies-for-school-lunches/52779404/1
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/16/school-lunch-quiz_n_1790435.html#quiz_4390
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/back-to-school-what-stude_n_1812994.html?utm_hp_ref=food&ir=Food
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20120821/us-back-to-school-lunches/