Archive for April, 2008

Healthy Eating Promotes Academic Success

Healthy School Meals is the Best Way to Assure ‘No Child is Left Behind’

There’s plenty of talk about closing the achievement gap. Yet, the one effort that can assure that students achieve their full academic potential is to make sure they’ve eaten a good breakfast and have healthy food choices for lunch. However, most school hot lunch programs still cater to the US Agricultural subsidies rather than featuring fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and skim milk. (See School Lunch Survey for more information: )

In order for students to reach their full potential in school, their food choices must first get an “A”. Most school lunch programs still serve meals that are too high in saturated fat and too low in fiber- and nutrient-rich foods even though academic success is directly related to healthy eating, as supported by 3 recently published studies.

Students with a poorly rated diet have been found to perform lower on standardized tests. As might be expected, children attending academically advanced schools and living in wealthier neighborhoods performed better. These findings affirm that diet quality has a direct impact on academic performance, and points to the importance of investing in effective school nutrition programs that have the potential to improve student access to healthy food choices, improved academic performance, and, over the long term, optimal health.

It is clear that school wellness programs are effective in reducing childhood obesity. Furthermore, these studies support the need for broader implementation of nutrition and physical activity curriculum in all schools since the benefits will promote better learners in the near term, and reduce chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, and health care costs, in the long-term–All to the good.


April 22, 2008 at 10:55 pm 6 comments

Toxin From Plastics Found in Food and Beverages

A push to ban the use of bisphenol A (BPA) is intensifying in response to the latest study. BPA is found predominately in plastics, including water and baby bottles, and in the lining of canned foods. experts advise choosing glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids, whenever possible.

Continue Reading April 18, 2008 at 7:42 pm 1 comment

“Natural” Claim Remains Undefined

Consumers must remain in the dark about the meaning of “All Natural” for the foreseeable future.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declined to establish a formal definition for the term ‘natural’ on food packaging, according to a report in the online newsletter FoodNavigator-USA. The question was raised in response to formal petitions submitted by the Sugar Association and Sara Lee, requesting the FDA to define ‘natural’. The FDA, when pressed, acknowledged that its doesn’t support the use of ‘natural’ on food and beverage products containing high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

While ‘All Natural’ was the third most frequent claim made on food and beverage products, introduced last year based on data from the Mintel Report, there are no nutritional standards for the term; in effect, the term is meaningless. Put into context, poison ivy and lead are natural substances, but these aren’t substances that should be consumed. It takes a savvy shopper to discern whether a product is healthy or not, and the best way to make this determination is to read the food label.

Unlike the uncertainty of what ‘natural’ means on a food or beverage, the use of ‘organic‘ has a standardized definition, a recognizable label, and plenty of regulatory heft behind it. Most important, choosing ‘organic’ over non-organic can and does matter. There are certain foods that are well worth seeking out if you are at interested in minimizing your child(ren)’s exposure to pesticides, fertilizers, artificial coloring and additives. For more information, check out these sites:

April 14, 2008 at 11:30 pm 1 comment

Today’s Nutrition News

Water is good, but how much remains debatable.

The common adage — consume 8 glasses of water daily –- for optimum health isn’t supported by sufficient evidence.

Continue Reading April 3, 2008 at 8:53 pm Leave a comment

High Fructose Corn Syrup Not ‘Natural’

Foods and beverages that contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are not considered ‘natural’ and cannot be labeled “all natural”, according to a new ruling by the Food and Drug Administration. The decision should settle the controversy that has been ongoing between manufacturers who claimed that HFCS is just as natural as sugar. This issue has been contentious particularly in soft drinks and other sweetened beverages.

Since the FDA does not define the term ‘natural’, the term is left open to interpretation, and is used by food manufacturers as a way to make their products seem more appealing since consumers tend to associate “natural” with organic and healthy options, without any validity.

April 2, 2008 at 10:15 pm Leave a comment

Make Family Dinners A Habit

Dinners Connect Families Well Beyond the Meal

Does the idea of trying to get everyone around the table for a family dinner make you queasy? Only 1/3 of U.S. families eat dinner together most nights. However, eating together is one of the best ways for families to connect and with long-term benefits.

Frequent family dinners reduces the likelihood that teens will smoke cigarettes, use marijuana or drink alcohol, according to researchers at The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Supported by findings from their 10th annual back to school survey, parents should identify and work to overcome any barriers that prevent their families from eating together at least 5 times a week. Late work hours, long commutes, and after-school activities compromise parental involvement make these dinners difficult but all the more necessary to foster parental involvement. For more on the survey, go to:

Regular family meals provide children of all ages with a sense of stability, and give everyone a chance to catch up, get some attention, share news, and receive encouragement and support.Here are 9 tips to help you get the most out of your family dinner:

  1. Choose at least 1-2 nights per week when everyone can make it to the table at the same time.
  2. The timing matters very little—the idea is to meet over a meal, so breakfast, brunch or lunch is fine, too. When and how often can depend upon whatever works best for your family.
  3. Family meals should begin with the planning so each member can contribute, whether its selecting the menu, preparing the food, setting the table or washing the dishes afterwards. For some, it may work better to rotate the responsibilities or assign one family member per week to assist.
  4. Any disciplining or unpleasant topics, negative criticism, or judgment should be tabled for private time, and not raised during family meals.
  5. Find topics for discussion that involve every family member. Participation makes each person feel more valued, and it introduces different perspectives and ideas. The art of conversation such as taking turns and speaking up are important social skills that are best practiced at home.
  6. Specific questions that draw in children like “How many minutes did you play in the soccer game on Saturday?” are more likely to trigger conversation than general (yes or no) questions like”How was your day today?”
  7. Encourage laughter, it’s good medicine and a social equalizer.
  8. Change the meal location to say, an afternoon picnic, breakfast by the fire, or dinner under the stars. This will create lasting memories.
  9. Don’t permit any interruptions during this dedicated family time. Remove all cellphones from earshot. Turn off the TV and radio. And, let the answering machine pick up if it rings while you’re eating.

Even if family meals are resisted or fought against initially, with time they are likely to become a welcome break from an otherwise hectic life.

April 2, 2008 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

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