Is it possible that the West-coast population is eating less than us East-coasters and Midwesterners? According to a new study, that may be the case; especially when it comes to California teens.
The new study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine found that California teens are eating less at school. And although the margin may be small – about 158 calories – nutrition experts say this could make a big difference in the long run, especially since they also seem to be eating less added sugar and fat than students from others states.
The 14 other states included in the study reportedly have less strict nutrition standards, which may potentially be the reason their students are consuming more calories during the school day. But what isn’t clear is why California students also seem to be eating fewer calories at night when they arrive home from school.
Authors of the study say California’s nutrition laws are what’s likely contributing to the surprising results, since the state limits the amount of unhealthy snack foods and sodas schools can sell to students – including the content of vending machines.
And while 158 calories may sound trivial, that can add up to considerable weight loss or gain over the course of a year, according to nutrition counselor and registered dietitian, Dave Grotto. “That can mean 15 pounds a year – gained or lost – depending on which side of the calorie equation you are on.”
And since 150 calories is about the content of one 12-ounce sugary beverage, nutrition experts are saying that swapping out one soda or sports drink for a low-calorie beverage or water would make a big difference in the health of our nation’s children.
While some may see this evidence as insignificant in the grand scheme of things, other states are already following California’s lead. Both Oregon and Massachusetts have created stricter rules and standards for junk food available to high school students in an effort to positively influence their students’ health. And since President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2019 – which regulates foods sold outside of the meal plan, like snacks and junk food – more schools are likely to jump on the bandwagon soon as well.
While the schools’ individual approaches seem to be making positive changes already, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Andrea Giancoli, believes it will take more than just the school districts to get involved if we’re going to see big improvements in our nation’s health.
“The school setting can make significant change, but we all have to work together,” she says. “It takes a village to raise a child. Neighborhoods and food companies, restaurants and the marketers of junk food have to jump on the bandwagon as well to solve this childhood obesity problem.”