You’re running late and you haven’t eaten all day. You’re starving, your blood sugar is tanking, and you need a snack now. But wait! The vending machine is your only option.
Americans have busy schedules. They have less time available to plan and prepare a meal. According to government research, half of all Americans eats three or more snacks per day. Two generations ago, snacking was reserved for working men, growing adolescents, and toddlers with small stomachs. Most Americans ate three square meals a day. Now, meal skipping is common place, especially at breakfast. For teens, snack foods eaten outside of a sit-down meal provide one-fourth to one-third of daily calorie intake.
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Enter Healthy Vending Machines
At work, school, and in public places, vending machines are often the only source of food for sale. But food and beverages typically found in vending machines are a problem: high in calories, low in nutrients, and full of unwanted ingredients. Vending machines are seen as a major contributor to the poor food choices that lead to overweight and obesity. Improved access to healthy food is a key strategy in obesity prevention, a matter of great interest to anyone concerned about medical costs. (more…)
As the school year kicks off, it’s safe to say that good grades are at the top of many people’s school wishlists. While you can’t deny that paying attention in class and doing the assigned work makes up a major part of the grade, there are other, usually overlooked, ways to earn fridge-worthy grade cards.
We spoke with with our resident nutrition expert, Mary Hartley, RD, and nutritionist and author Dr. Keith Kantor about which healthy habits may boost grades and improve performance in school.
Eat Healthy Foods
Mary shared that getting the right nutrients can boost the speed at which the brain works. “So many nutrients have a role in cognition, including cholesterol from egg yolks and dairy products, essential fatty acids from fatty fish, nuts and olive oil, and carotenoids and flavonoids found in colorful fruits and vegetables.”
Back to School Food: Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Donut Sandwiches
Get Your Vitamins and Minerals
“A host of micronutrients also play key roles in processes that run the brain, including iron, zinc, choline, selenium, iodine, magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamins A and C,” Mary added.
Back to School Food: Rainbow Smoothie
“Mom, what are we bringing to school tomorrow for my birthday?”
If you’re like most busy parents, your child’s innocent question may send you into panic-stricken stammering.
“Um…well…it’s a surprise. A surprise! Yes, that’s it. You just wait until tomorrow and you’ll see.”
No, you didn’t forget your child’s birthday, it’s just that darn societal expectation that you’ll bring enough goodies to feed every kid in your child’s class. So, what’s it going to be? Stay up late and scour Pinterest for something, anything, that you can throw together, or sneak out to the store and eliminate some of the hassle?
For parents at some schools in Washington, Michigan, Colorado, Kentucky, and Minnesota, sugary sweets are no longer an option. This so-called “cupcake ban,” as reported by Shape Magazine, means that schools are requiring non-edible treats like pencils, stickers, and other trinkets be given.
Is this a good idea? Perhaps, if parents just aren’t complying with school recommendations to bring healthier treats. But in general, we as parents shouldn’t wait to be policed by the schools. Let’s take it upon ourselves to share healthier treats in classroom celebrations.
Here are a few homemade options that are wholesome and kid-approved! (more…)
The days of going through the lunch line at school and picking every greasy, cheesy, fatty option are soon coming to an end. The Department of Agriculture has outlined new regulations for the kinds of foods that can be sold to kids at school. For the first time, the government is tackling the content of “a la carte” lines, vending machines, snack bars and other sources of food regularly available on school campuses. According to Registered Dietitian Mary Hartley, “the policy would increase student exposure to healthier foods and decrease exposure to less healthy foods.”
Previously unregulated, the “a la carte” lines and similar non- standard lunch line options provided kids access to foods like nachos, pizza, chocolate sandwich cookies, and other unhealthy treats. Now under the new guidelines those foods will be replaced with more healthful options like granola bars and yogurt. The new regulations also outline a difference in the beverages that can be sold in schools. Elementary and middle schools will only sell water, carbonated water, low fat and fat-free milk and 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices. Sodas and sports drinks that contain 60 calories or less will be made available in high schools. Though the changes don’t have to be in effect until July 1, 2014, several schools will start implementing them in the upcoming school year. It has been found that schools with this type of reform already in place have seen little to loss of revenue from food sales.
When it comes to childhood obesity in the U.S., we obviously have a problem. An estimated one in three American kids and teens is obese, according to the American Heart Association. And as a result, weight-related diseases like Type 2 diabetes are on the rise in children, which leaves health experts scrambling for ways to reverse this alarming trend.
But thanks to various food laws put in place in some schools, we may be making some healthy progress.
According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, strict laws that curb the sales of junk food and sugary drinks in schools may be reducing children’s BMIs and slowing overall weight gain.
To conduct the study, researchers analyzed 6,300 students in 40 states, first measuring their heights and weights when they were fifth graders in 2004, and again when they were eighth graders in 2007. Over the same lapse of time, researchers also examined the databases of several state laws concerning nutrition in these schools.
Among the schools examined, there were a range of laws in place to govern the food and drinks being sold either in vending machines or school stores outside of designated meal times. These laws included restrictions on the sugar and fat contents of food and beverages, and the severity of these laws ranged from district to district. (more…)
Bake sales used to be the highlight of any school function, with mountains of cupcakes and muffins, and bundt cakes galore, tempting the taste buds of kindergartners and teachers alike. But that may be changing soon, as schools are beginning to make bake sale restrictions in light of America’s ever-expanding waistline.
The public school system in Maryland’s Montgomery County, for instance, is no longer allowing its districts to hold bake sales, even if the fundraisers are for a good cause. This is because selling sweets has been outlawed during the school day, and the new ban is taken rather seriously, according to Marla Caplon of Montgomery County’s food and nutrition services, who says officials ‘make the rounds’ daily to ensure no one’s breaking the rules.
“If a bake sale is going on, it’s reported to administration and it’s taken care of,” she says. “You can’t sell Girl Scout cookies, candy, cakes, any of that stuff.” (more…)
I have no children, but do have an adorable niece and nephew and love to hear stories about the sneaky little things they do to my sister to drive her insane. I remember not too long ago her telling me her son forgot his lunch, so she ran to school to drop it off a few minutes after the bell rang. Expecting to run it to his classroom, a teacher told her he was in the cafeteria. She walked in, found him at a table eating a doughnut off of a Styrofoam tray, and tapped him on the shoulder. She said when he turned around and saw her, he almost fell of his chair.
Turns out, for the past few months, he has been eating breakfast at home, then going to school and taking advantage of the free breakfast at school. Why? Because instead of a healthy well-balanced meal, they served maple bars and chocolate milk. Who could blame him?
This is just a cute story, one that we will tease him about for years to come, I’m sure, but my memory was jogged about it from a story I found in the New York Times.
According to the Times, there are many benefits to the free breakfast program. “The number of students in Newark who eat breakfast in school has tripled. Absenteeism has fallen in Los Angeles, and officials in Chicago say children from low-income families are eating healthier meals, more often.”
New York City, however, is wary to instill this program because they feel “double-dippers” will take advantage, and add to the obesity epidemic.
When I was younger and living in New Mexico with my parents and older sister, we were by no means a rich family.
Of the many things I don’t remember about my time there as a 3-8 year old, one thing I do have a vivid memory of is walking down to a nearby park with my mom and sister to get a free lunch that was provided to families in the neighborhood who were going through particularly difficult financial times.
We weren’t starving, but the lunch certainly helped. And while some view programs like this is a handout, that isn’t always the case as they can be a great benefit to communities. Although not everyone agrees, this seems to be the case with a recent trend in schools helping out struggling families by feeding children an extra meal before sending them home for the day.
In light of the economic downturn, there have been a number of schools that have begun serving students supper in addition to the breakfast and lunch they’re already being provided during a typical day at school. (more…)
By Kelsey Murray
There’s been a lot of news recently about schools offering free breakfasts and lunches to students who are from low-income families. Now, 200 schools in California are also starting to offer free dinners to students who participate in after-school programs.
In 2010, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This act made it possible for after-school programs to receive funding to provide dinner for free or at a reduced price. Under the act, schools must have an educational component to their after-school programs, such as tutoring services of health and nutrition classes. Also, in order to receive funding, at least 50 percent of the students who participate in these programs must qualify for free or reduced-price meals.
Gary Petill is the director of Food Nutrition Services at San Diego Unified. Currently, his school district is serving dinner to around 1,650 students, but he expects that number to rise to more than 2,000 by next month and more than 13,000 students by next year. (more…)
School lunches and childhood obesity are hot topics this year and as they should be. The current stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that one in every five children are obese. That’s a clear picture that our kids need more help. The lunch standards are being changed and now the standards for food outside the cafeteria are being challenged.
It’s estimated that $2.3 billion in snack foods and drinks are sold each year in our schools. The Obama administration is set to propose a change in what is sold in vending machines and school snack stores. The new standards are expected in a few weeks. Experts assume that the new guidelines will mirror those of the school lunch standards: reduction of sugar, salt, and fat amounts.
There are many impacted by these changes. Schools may face restrictions on school fundraisers, as many sell candy and sweets to raise money for sports, music, and art programs. Food and beverage companies fear that the guidelines will be too strict and they will lose revenue if they can’t sell in the schools. Many companies feel they’ve made changes to their inventory to reflect the need for healthier foods.