It’s baaaack. Pink slime, an ammonia and beef byproduct that spurred one of the most talked about controversies in 2012, is being reintroduced to school lunches now that the media spotlight has dimmed. School districts in Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Virginia are patiently waiting for their pink slime burgers to ship from the USDA, all to save mere pennies on the dollar.
Shocking as that may sound, schools in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota never stopped serving the pseudo beef. Beef Product Incorporated is the company that makes and sells pink slime, formally known as “ammonia-treated lean finely textured beef,” or LFTB. In layman’s, LFTB is unwanted bits of cow mixed with ammonia and sent through a centrifuge—just like mom used to make. This process was invented by Beef Product Inc to help get the most possible product out of cows. Then, they sell it for cheap, hence the reason school districts bought it in the first place—to save money.
A team of cardiologists at the University of Michigan has found that among obese middle schoolers, 62 percent watched two or more hours of TV a day. The data suggests that when “screen time” replaces physical activity, obesity is likely to ensue. When you pair this decreased activity with the calorie-rich, fat-laden lunches served in schools, you have a full on epidemic.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was meant to provide healthier food for the national school lunch program, which took effect last year. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but still far from perfect. As for the other side of the coin, it’s ultimately up to parents to tackle the TV problem. The life-long effects of poor dietary and activity habits can lead obesity, heart disease, and other chronic diseases.
Our resident nutrition expert, Mary Hartley, RD, has been an ardent supporter of the school lunch overhaul, and told us that for many kids, half of a child’s calorie intake comes from school lunch, and those calories were 34 percent fat.
“French fries and other potato products accounted for a disproportionate number of the vegetables on kids’ trays,” she said. “But improving school lunches is only one part of the obesity problem. Parents at home have a far greater impact.”
Students are going back to a healthier school environment this year, as schools continue to advance Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Last year, USDA added more fruit, vegetables and whole grains to the school lunch program. This year, those healthy advancements extend to school vending machines and school stores. Expect to see more of the foods we should encourage – whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and leaner protein – and less of the foods we should avoid – sugary, salty and fatty items. Read the guidelines in Smart Snacks in School, the USDA’s guide to the new nutrition standards.
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We took those guidelines one step further by translating them into brand name foods to help busy parents and even teachers know what to look for at the store. Our list contains only foods that meet the new standards. There are no cookies or soda (too much sugar), nor meat jerky (too much salt), and several snack bars didn’t make the cut because they exceed the 200-calorie limit. While our list doesn’t include every acceptable packaged food on the market – and let’s make it clear, we love snacks made at home from healthy, fresh ingredients – we hope our list will help school administrators, teachers and parents to identify better-for-you commercial snacks that are more apt to promote our kids’ healthy lifestyles. (more…)
By Rachel Berman RD, Director of Nutrition at CalorieCount.com
Last month, the USDA celebrated its one year anniversary of releasing MyPlate to replace the decades-old food guide pyramid in order to help Americans make healthier choices at mealtime. In case you haven’t seen it yet, MyPlate is a visual representation of what your plate should look like, sectioned off with 50% attributed for fruits and vegetables, 30% grains, 20% protein and a smaller circle next to the plate representing dairy. But is the government implementing this nutrition guide focusing on balance when it comes to the National School lunch program? With more than one-third of the nation’s children and adolescents being obese and students taking in about 20-50% of their daily food at school during the school year, is the math adding up to more nutritious school lunches?
This year, the USDA is requiring a revamp of school lunches due to first lady Michelle Obama’s initiative and as a component of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act signed by the president. Beginning July 1, 2012, new school lunch and general nutrition standards started rolling out and will continue for the next five years. The main changes, which are in line with MyPlate recommendations, include ensuring:
If you’re plugged into the health world at all, or apparently if you work for the USDA, then you’ve likely heard the term ‘Meatless Monday‘ floating around at one point or another. The term, or movement, rather, is an initiative on behalf of the nonprofit organization Monday Campaign Inc., and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, to encourage people to embrace the idea of a meat-free diet on Mondays for health and environmental reasons, among others.
According to the website, “Going meatless once a week, may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.”
Initially, the USDA was all in favor of meat-free Mondays and even promoted the idea in a recent interoffice newsletter saying: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the Meatless Mondays initiative,” citing the reasons of health and environmental impact as encouragement to join the cause. (more…)