Disease Proof

Shaping Up School Cafeterias

Sometimes I wonder, how did America get so fat? And then, I just walk through the typical supermarket; up and down the isles, lots of junk and convenience foods. In Eat to Live, Dr. Fuhrman explains this—coupled with lack of exercise—is what’s making us fat. Take a look:
Nationally recognized food surveys, such as the National Food Consumption Survey and the National Health and Nutrition Survey, indicate that Americans consume somewhere between 34 and 37 percent of their calories from fat.1 Americans are still eating a very high fat diet. The reason for the rise in obesity in America is no mystery: we eat a high-calorie, high-fat diet. We are eating more meals outside the home, relying more heavily on convenience foods, and consuming larger food portions. Consistent with trends in weight, caloric intake rose 15 percent between 1970 and 1994.2 The data actually shows increased consumption of junk food, fat, and calories in recent years.3

Weight has increased in America simply because total calorie consumption has risen and activity or exercise has fallen. Our diets are more nutrient-deficient than ever.
And as we know, this stuff has infiltrated our schools; vending machines, tatter tots, and ice cream. But lately, there’s been a concerted to straighten up our school cafeterias. So, how’s it going? Andrew Martin of The New York Times investigates the state of school food:
Food and beverage companies have scrambled to offer healthier alternatives in school cafeterias and vending machines, and some of the changes have been met with a shrug by students. The whole-wheat chocolate-chip cookies? “Surprisingly, the kids have kind of embraced them,” said Laura Jacobo, director of food services at Woodlake Union schools in California.

But some parents say that by cracking down on cupcakes in the classroom to celebrate birthdays and Halloween, school officials have crossed a line.

On top of the practical question of how PTAs and drill teams can raise the money that will no longer be earned with bake sales, there is a matter closer to the heart, where the cupcake holds strong as a symbol of childhood innocence and parental love.

“I remember growing up and a birthday party was a big deal when you got to bring a treat,” said Amy Joswick, who has two children in elementary school in Old Bridge, N.J., where cupcakes are not allowed at birthday parties. “I don’t agree with it because as a whole, parents should be monitoring what they are eating. It should start at home.”

Parents in Texas lobbied to get a “Safe Cupcake Amendment” added to the state’s nutrition policy. The measure, which passed, ensures that parents may bring frosted treats to schools for celebrations.
Here’s a question. Why do birthdays have to be associated with sweet treats and other junk food? I don’t know, I’m not a parent. Maybe if kids were learning good eating habits at home, they wouldn’t be tempted by the junk at school. Check out these tips from Disease-Proof Your Child:
1. Keep only healthy food in the house. Every person in the household should have the same food choices available.

2. Offer and feed a wholesome diversity of natural foods, vegetables, beans, raw nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit, while giving each child as much latitude as possible to eat what they prefer.

3. Don't attempt to manage your children's caloric intake. They can do that on their own.

4. If you, as parents, do not demonstrate proper respect for your own bodies by eating healthy, exercising regularly, and engaging in other healthful lifestyle practices, don't expect your children to do any better than you, now or in the future.

5. Educate your children about their nutritional needs and the importance of eating healthfully. Start this when they are young and continue to reinforce their learning, as they will be exposed to more toxic food choices as they get older and spend more time out of their home.
1. Beyers, T. 1993. Dietary trends in the United States. Relevance to cancer prevention. Cancer 72 (3 supp.) 1015–18; Lenfant, C., and N. Ernst. 1994. Daily dietary fat and total food-energy intake — Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, phase 1, 1988–91. MMWR 43 (7): 116–17, 123–25.

2. Harnack, L. J., R. W. Jeffrey, and K. N. Boutelle. 2000. Temporal trends in energy intake in the United States: an ecological perspective. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 71 (6): 1478–84.

3. Kennedy, E. T., S. A. Bowman, and R. Powell. 1999. Dietary-fat intake in the U.S. population. J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 18 (3): 207–12; Kant, A. K. 2000. Consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods by adult Americans: nutritional and health implications: Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–94. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 72 (4): 929–36.
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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
wickwire - September 6, 2007 10:25 AM

We have been Eat To Live type of persons going on a a year or so now, we have boy girl twins and although the transition to a plant based diet was hard for the kids. What made it easier, was the fact mom and dad were eating healthy. Rule 4 above seems the most important. Our children now understand what is healthy and what is not, and both have a distaste for animal protein and processed foods.

What seems to be the hardest to control are grandmothers who have a hard time saying no to the kids :-)

Our children have just started kindergarten and the cafeteria leaves much to be desired, so we pack our children's lunch.

Kids are still kids but eliminating unhealthy choices and setting a good example make the process easier to manage.

Kirsten - September 6, 2007 4:12 PM

These are great tips. I don't know why parties are so closely associated with treats, but I know it's really ingrained in my own head. When my kids go to birthday parties, I make ETL-friendly muffins or cookies for the boys to have instead. So far, so good!
On Rule #5, my 4 year old is so cute--when he sees people eating something, the first question he asks lately is, "Does it have nutrients in it?". A 9 year old girl we're watching this week was trying to explain to him why she drinks "100%" juice and how healthy it is. All I had to tell him was that the second ingredient is HFCS and he understood. It's very satisfying to hear how much he understands already.
I can wait to see what the public schools hold in store for us, though ...

AnnMarie Fischer - September 10, 2007 5:39 PM

Unfortunately the school system by allowing candy, cupcakes and junk food for parties is setting themselves up for lawsuits. There are so many allergies, fructose, wheat, sugar etc. etc. Who's to know what in these treats? I have 3,5 year old grandchildren (triplets) that cannot eat any of this stuff but the school board does not have enough empathy not to have junk food in the classroom since they claim birthday's have to be celebrated. I hope Little Silver Monmouth County NJ Kindergarden principal and teachers never have to feel the pain I feel over my grandchildren feeling left out and different. A very angry grandma.

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