Who’s to Blame for School Lunches?

Who’s to blame for school lunches?

Recently, I’ve noticed that pictures of school lunches have been saturating my Facebook newsfeed. In fact, many people are sharing the popular Buzzfeed article that compares typical US school lunches to what school lunches look like around the world. Outraged parents have made comments about the pictures like, “Time for the US to step it up and serve food from the earth and not from a science lab.” While I completely agree with this statement, things do not get changed that easily. Additionally, I feel there is a big gap of information that many parents are unaware of when it comes to creating a school lunch menu.

  • Cost of food. Wouldn’t it be great if our schools served fish such as tilapia, mahi mahi or salmon at least once a week? What about fresh, organic eggs and avocado slices with breakfast? Unfortunately, the cost of these menu items may far surpass the school’s food budget. Typically, wealthier districts are able to offer a wider variety of foods while more rural school districts have a much lower budget to work with.
  • Cost of labor. Believe me, I wish that all the food served in our schools was fresh and wholesome—never canned or processed. However, when you purchase items that are not pre-cut or minimally pre-prepared, you now have increased labor cost from the increased time your cooks have to take to prepare these dishes from scratch.
  • Cooking space. Ever notice when you plan a meal at home, you take into consideration which different cooking methods you will utilize (oven, stove top, microwave, etc.?) Do you factor in if any of your dishes will require the same cooking method? Schools have to do the same thing! They may also be severely limited to specific cooking techniques and this would also impact the type of food they are able to serve.
  • Don’t expect kids to eat it at school when it’s not prepared at home. Many parents complain that their children are served unhealthy foods at school. One thing that pained me when I was doing my school food service rotations as a dietetic intern was the amount of food that kids waste at lunchtime. One day when I was observing the elementary students, hundreds of pre-packaged carrots and sugar-snap peapods piled up in the trash can. One of the unfortunate realities is that schools do offer healthier menu items; the kids simply do not eat them. This is why it is incredibly important to begin teaching healthy eating habits in the home. A few simple tips to get you started can include:
    • Serve lean proteins such as chicken, turkey and fish most often.
    • Educate kids that potatoes, peas and corn are starches, not vegetables and therefore, they should not be served every night.
    • Expose children to a variety of vegetables and cooking techniques such as steamed, grilled, roasted, sautéed and served raw.
    • Avoid over-serving packaged snack foods like crackers and granola bars, and choose fresh fruits, veggies and proteins as healthier alternatives.
  • Following Government Guidelines. The National School Lunch Program was designed to provide access to nutritionally-balanced meals to students. The USDA funds this program; therefore, their recommendations must follow those of the most updated USDA dietary guidelines. New recommendations of limiting sodium and saturated fat and offering more fruits, veggies and whole grains have been enforced over the past couple of years. Thousands of students receive free and reduced breakfast and lunch meals every day. In order for the schools to be reimbursed for these meals by the government, they must meet the specific standards of what counts as a meal. We have learned that high protein breakfast meals can help ward off childhood obesity. However, it is not required that a protein/meat source be served at breakfast to count as a reimbursable meal. Source: National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs

The point of my blog today was not to discredit any parent’s thoughts on what their child is being served at school; rather I wanted to help them better understand all the factors that are involved in the menu-creating process. In fact, I think it’s absurd that kids are allowed to be served sugar-sweetened beverages such as chocolate milk. However, school is not the only place that children may have access to less-healthy menu items. Remember, good eating habits start at home. Expose children early on to a variety of fruits, veggies, proteins and cooking technique and help them to appreciate natural flavors over those that are overly salty or sweetened.

For additional information on national standards in the school breakfast and lunch programs, please visit:

Thanksgiving Traditions

Un-Thanksgiving Turkey & Fixings

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, not necessarily because of the food but more because of the reminder of all the blessings we have to be thankful for in our lives. May this year’s Thanksgiving bless you and your family with good health, safe travels, friendship and kinship. Here are a few tips to help keep health and wellness a part of your Thanksgiving traditions.

  • Rise and shine! Whether it’s hitting the gym, playing a friendly game of football with the family or taking a brisk walk, be sure not to skip your workout today.
  • Do not “save your calories.” Many times, people have told me that they typically skip breakfast and lunch to “save their calories” for their Thanksgiving meal. While this theory may make sense, it really throws your metabolism through the ringer when you skip out on meals. A depressed metabolism can cause excessive hunger later on in the day causing one to overeat at their next meal. Start with a protein-rich breakfast such as a veggie omelet with a small baked sweet potato (3 oz) to get your metabolism started off right for the day.
  • Be aware not to overeat with your appetizers. As the family comes together, we often gather and linger around the appetizer table. As we get wrapped up in conversation, we sometimes drift into mindless eating habits. Take one small appetizer plate and include a fruit or vegetable and pre-portion out anything else that you desire to snack on. By only consuming what’s served on your plate, you will be more mindful of your portion sizes versus constantly grabbing and munching on items while conversing.
  • Survey your desserts. Scan the desserts offered and try to stick to just one. Enjoy your slice and be proud of yourself for practicing good moderation!
  • If Black Friday shopping is a part of your tradition, make sure to pack some healthy snacks to help keep you energized throughout the day. Pre-portion a bag of nuts or pack a small lunchbox with a couple of bottles of water and fruit to have on hand.
  • If you felt like you over ate on Thanksgiving, don’t beat yourself up. Get right back to your normal healthy eating habits the next day by practicing the plate method, good portion control and  being  active.

Move to Lose

exercise_MP900442795In the past year I have sprained my ankle while teaching Zumba, strained my back playing softball and got a nasty 5 inch abrasion on my shin at Crossfit. One of my witty family members commented to me, “That’s what you get for exercising.” My response “What does a sedentary lifestyle get you?”

A popular topic in research today is the health impacts of sedentary behaviors, specifically excessive sitting time. In fact, I’ve heard “sedentary behaviors are the new smoking” referenced in several presentations and conferences. Sedentary behaviors have taken over our country. Decreased physical activity patterns have been noted with the rise of technology (video games/tablets), changing modes of transportation and increased urbanization. We generally associate sedentary behaviors with watching television, playing video games, surfing the web, reading and knitting. However, most forget that our job positions are often sedentary activities. In fact, 95% of my day is spent sitting and talking to patients or charting on the computer.

We know that limiting sedentary behaviors is recommended for children. In fact, television or screen time should be limited to no more than 2 hours/day for children. But are there any sedentary behavior limitations recommended for adults? At present, no definitive recommendations can be made on how long adults can sit for or how often they should break up their sitting time. In one Australian study, high levels of television viewing time were associated with metabolic syndrome and its components (abdominal obesity, abnormal glucose and lipid metabolism).3 A 2003 article in the JAMA found that independent of exercise levels, sedentary behaviors, especially TV watching, were associated with significantly elevated risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes, whereas even light to moderate activity was associated with substantially lower risk.1

Sometimes limited physical activity is out of one’s control, such as a job position. Wearing a pedometer can help you become more aware of how sedentary or active you are during the day. The Shape Up America program  recommends individuals aim for 10,000 steps per day (which would be close to walking about 5 miles/day). Ten thousand steps may be too great of a feat for some individuals; however, a pedometer can help track what your average amounts of steps are per day. From there, you can set personalized goals focusing on your own physical activity patterns. For example, if you average 2,000 steps per day, create a goal of increasing that to 3,000 steps per day.

In a study published in 2008, Diabetes Care, researchers investigated the importance of avoiding prolonged, uninterrupted periods of sitting time.2 This evidence suggests that recommendations need to be made to break up sitting time in addition to physical activity recommendations.

What is the best type of physical activity?

Couple Bicycling on Rural RoadThe current recommendation for physical activity for health is a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity accumulated each week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week. While I’d love to tell everyone to start incorporating high-intensity interval training and lifting heavy weights into their exercise routines, bottom line is, not everyone likes the same thing. I am not a fan of running and there is no way that I would wake up before work every day to go for a brisk morning jog. However, I love going to Crossfit and rarely choose sleeping in over going to an early morning class. I never saw myself as an early morning exerciser, but I found something that I love, something that motivates me and that is the reason my alarm clock is set for 5:15 a.m. every morning.

To answer the question, the best type of exercise is the kind that gets you moving!  Sure, many can argue one form of exercise is better over the other, but what matters most is the fact that you are exercising.  I encourage people to find something they love and hopefully its multiple things so that you can vary up your routine. If you can, try to participate in exercise or active movement every day. Remember to take breaks often if you have a sedentary work position, even if you already work out before or after work.

1. Frank B. Hu, et al. 2003.Television Watching and Other Sedentary Behaviors in Relation to Risk of Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Women. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 289(14):1785-1791.

2. Healy, G.N, et al. (2008). Breaks in sedentary time: Beneficial associations with metabolic risk. Diabetes Care, 31(4): 661-666.

3. Owen, N. (2012). Sedentary behavior: Understanding and influencing adults’ prolonged sitting time. Prev Med, 55(6): 535-539.

Fat Talk Free Week October 21- 25

Fat woman stepping on scaleFat Talk Free Week is a 5-day body image and health awareness campaign created by the Tri Delta sorority. This campaign strives to bring attention to the “thin ideal” on women in our society. Media coverage on “self-hating, body-shaming statements” has brought to light this issue that plagues both men and women of all ages. Recently, a popular article  on body-shaming has been circulating the social media world. This personal story shares the powerful impact that women can have on one of our most precious values, our children. In fact, I learned the word “diet” when I was 7 years old. While I didn’t know its true definition, I did understand that it was something one did to lose weight and it meant you had to eat cottage cheese and beets every day for lunch.

One of the main problems with the issue of body-shaming is that it is accepted in most social circles. I know I have been a part of conversations where all of us gals talked about the parts of our bodies we hated or would like to change. It almost seems too natural to publicly announce our dissatisfactions with our bodies. In fact, here are some interesting facts listed on the Tri Delta’s Body Image 3D website:

• 54% of women would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.

• More than 90% of girls ages 15 to 17 want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance, with body weight ranking the highest.

• 81% of ten-year-olds are afraid of being fat.

• 1 out of 8 adolescent girls reported starving themselves to lose weight.

• 67% of women 15-64 withdraw from life-engaging activities like giving an opinion, going to school and going to the doctor because they feel badly about their looks.

• 40% of moms tell their adolescent daughters to diet. 45% of these are of average weight.

• 70 million people worldwide struggle with eating disorders.

• In the US, as many as 10 million are suffering from anorexia or bulimia. That’s more than are suffering from breast cancer.Portrait of a young woman

Last year, Tri Delta launched their Body Image 3-D program. This movement was established to create a multi-dimensional approach to body image awareness and education. Their mission is to help girls and women focus on all aspects of health, not just physical features when considering one’s body image. According to their website, this month’s challenge is to color your plate with an assortment of fruits and vegetables. The focus of this challenge is being healthy, not skinny. One thing I always try to communicate is that healthy and skinny should not be used synonymously. Just because someone is “skinny” does not mean that they have healthy lifestyle habits.

As a former self-hater, I couldn’t agree more with this campaign. I’ll admit I used to cut out pictures of Victoria’s Secret models and celebrities and paste them to the refrigerator hoping one day I would be perfectly tanned with a six-pack. Thanks to the additional efforts of the Dove campaign  we now know how unnatural and air-brushed those flawless magazine pictures and ads really are. We have a serious issue on our hands and the change needs to start within ourselves. With self-hating statements like “My thighs are too wide” or “I look so ugly today”, we end up becoming our own worst enemies.

I encourage you to join the movement and participate in Fat Talk Free Week. Inspire change in the way we think and feel about our bodies and remember, it starts with you.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” –Muhatma Gandhi

Eating Healthy During Treatment

BreastHealthRibbon

A diagnosis of breast cancer can be one of the most frightening experiences a woman can have. No matter what the course of treatment, nutrition should be a vital component. The exact path that nutrition therapy takes may differ for each patient and their course of treatment, but the core focus on weight maintenance or weight loss remains the same.
Many breast cancer patients find themselves gaining weight throughout treatment. It’s not completely clear why this occurs, but possible explanations may be related to body composition changes. Muscle tissue is lost while fat matter is gained. This can be a result of treatment itself or in combination of reduced physical activity levels and poor dietary intake. Focusing on healthy eating patterns and nutrient-dense foods can help the body function optimally.
Quality nutrition can be found in plant-based proteins, high-fiber whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of fluids and heart-healthy fats. This can be accomplished by consuming ≥ 5 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables, 100% whole wheat/whole grain products, beans, water and healthy fats such as cold-water fish and walnuts.

Here are some quick reminders of healthful eating during treatment and survivorship :

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Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eating more produce might be the single best diet change you can make to improve your nutrient intake. Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber, low in calories and are packed with phytochemicals and antioxidants that help protect our cells and tissues. Think simple first. Try swapping an apple for crackers as a healthy snack. Slice up a banana or berries to put in oatmeal. Keep pre-cut raw vegetables readily available to add to salads or snack on by themselves. If you already consume at least five servings of produce per day, focus on including a variety of vibrantly colored items to maximize your phytochemical and antioxidant intake.
• Eat less red meat. A diet high in red meat has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers. An easy way to cut back on eating red meat is to substitute fish or plant-based sources of protein for burgers, sausages, bacon and steaks. Plant proteins include beans, lentils, nuts and high-protein grains, such as quinoa. For a great plant-based protein meal, try this heart-healthy, black-bean burrito recipe http://bit.ly/16vUtYx
Limit sodium. Did you know that salting one’s food only contributes to about 5-10% of one’s total daily sodium intake? Most of the salt Americans consume comes directly from packaged and processed foods. While it’s important not to add extra salt to food, it’s also important to evaluate the sodium content of the foods you consume on a regular basis. Excessive consumption of salt and sodium-preserved foods is not only a cause of hypertension but it may also be linked to certain cancers. Try limiting the consumption of pre-packaged foods, dinners, canned soups and fast food. Look for “no salt added” canned foods and salt-free seasoning mixes such as Mrs. Dash products.
Limit alcoholic drinks. According to the National Cancer Institute, a large sum of studies show a positive link between increased alcohol consumption and the risk of breast cancer in women. If you choose to drink an alcoholic beverage, decrease your risk associated with alcohol consumption by limiting your intake to no more than two drinks per day for men, and one per day for women. These recommendations are similar to those put forth by the American Heart Association for protection against heart disease.

myplateFollow “The Plate Method.” If your diet needs improvement, incorporating all these ideas might seem intimidating. A great way to simplify these recommendations is to adopt what is called “The Plate Method.” To do this, divide your plate visually into fourths when serving foods at a meal. Fill one fourth with vegetables, one fourth with fruit, one fourth with lean protein foods, and one fourth with whole grains. Following this pattern will help ensure you are eating a well-balanced diet high in important nutrients and lower in fat and calories. To find more information and great tips, visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.
It’s important to remember that an improvement in diet can increase well-being, promote post-op healing, reduce the risk of co-morbidities during and after cancer and provide a sense of active participation in one’s healing process. One study showed that even in the absence of weight loss, consuming a diet high in plant foods in combination of 30 minutes of daily physical activity can provide a survival benefit. To help improve the quality of your diet and balance the right amount of nutrients for you, please contact Springfield Clinic Nutrition and Dietetics.

Guest Blogger : Belly Fat and Your Risk of Chronic Disease

Watch Your WaistDo you have more than an inch to pinch? When you look down, have the tips of your toes disappeared? If so, you might want to measure your belly fat, which can increase your risk for chronic disease.

According to an article by Mayo Clinic staff; it is common for “belly fat,” also known as visceral fat, to appear after menopause due to low levels of estrogen. It is estrogen that influences where we store fat in our body. So let’s measure our risk! Determine your waist circumference by locating the top of your hip bones. Use a measuring tape from this point to pull snug, but not so much to compress your skin. Run the tape around your middle; take your final measurement when you exhale.

Now that we’ve measured our “belly fat,” let’s discuss why it may not “just be a cosmetic concern.” You should know that “belly fat” can increase inflammation and produce hormones that raise blood pressure, negatively change the balance of good (HDL) to bad (LDL) cholesterol and promote insulin resistance, a risk factor for developing diabetes.

As a registered dietitian, I encourage people to improve their health through good nutrition and physical activity. Shed those extra pounds to avoid complications associated with “belly fat” and the “bad stuff” it creates. Eat foods that help you feel full, such as whole grains and high fiber foods like peas, dried beans and lentils. To expand your antioxidant arsenal without adding extra calories from fat, enjoy fruit and non-starchy vegetables. Great choices are berries, cherries, apples, carrots, tomatoes and dark green, leafy vegetables!

We all need to consider the effect chronic disease has on our body, but people with a genetic risk for diabetes also need to worry about the damage high blood sugars can cause to the eyes, kidneys and feet. A decrease in “belly fat” may help to reduce these effects.Woman on Exercise Machine

Other concerns for those with diabetes
In addition to a healthy diet, be as physically active as possible. In general most of us should be at least moderately active. Moderate activity is defined as being physically active at least 150 minutes per week. This level of activity could be met by walking 30 minutes, 5 days a week.

Talk to your physician about the importance of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D is associated with a 30% to 50% increased risk for breast cancer. Remember, some of our best defense can be found in “super foods” such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, cranberries and green tea. You could also add ground flaxseed to your cereal or have a moderate amount (1-2 servings a day) of soy or tofu. Did you know certain brands of mushrooms are a great source for vitamin D?

Please know, current literature is still mixed about the impact of plant estrogens in people with hormonally sensitive cancer of the breast, ovaries or prostate. Speak with your physician about this topic and practice caution with the use of phytoestrogen supplements, soy powders and capsules, as they could be linked to recurrence of cancer. As with all medical nutrition recommendations, individualization is essential. Speak with a registered dietitian today if you have more questions about healthy eating for disease prevention.

Schleder, Missy RD

Melissa S. Schleder
Registered Dietitian, Springfield Clinic Endocrinology
Resources:
http://www.nutritioncaremanual.org ; http://www.mayoclinic.com ;
http://www.aicr.org; www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer ; www.uptodate.com