Our not-so-nutritious lifestyles keep making headlines: “Don’t eat this; avoid that!” On the chopping block is everything from fast food, soft drinks, and red meat to trans fats, saturated fats, and sodium-laden foods. It’s no wonder that March has been designated National Nutrition Month.
It’s been estimated that one-third of our children/adolescents are either overweight or obese, putting them at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other health problems. We adults are faring no better. Indeed, according to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, two-thirds of adults in this country are overweight-and one-third of that group is actually obese.
One reason: we’re filling up on not-so-good for us goodies:
• A small fast food restaurant order of French fries is loaded with 230 calories, along with 11 grams of fat, and 160 milligrams of sodium.
• Just one slice from a typical 14″ cheese pizza offers up with 300 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 750 milligrams of sodium.
• A one-ounce bag of potato chips is worth 150 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 180 milligrams of sodium.
• Just 3 cream-filled cookies fill you with 160 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 210 milligrams of sodium.
You get the idea; it all adds up. Quickly.
Have no doubt: our food choices are expanding our waistlines and compromising our health, and our children’s, as well. All-too-absent from our diets: fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy.
Enter the federal government. Given the food choices our kids are making and such typical school fare as pizza, hot dogs, fries, and tacos, in December, President Obama signed the $4.5 billion (over 10 years) Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, designed to improve school meal offerings. Among other things, it…
• Requires that water be available during meal service, free of charge;
• Strengthens Local School Wellness Policies;
• Promotes farm-to-school programs;
• Gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to establish nutritional standards for all foods sold in schools throughout the day.
Meanwhile, more changes are in the offing when it comes to foods served at schools. In January, the USDA proposed a new set of nutrition standards for the National School Lunch Program, which provides free or reduced-cost lunches to some 31 million kids. In a word, they’re looking to:
• Decrease the amount of such starchy vegetables as corn, peas, and potatoes;
• Serve only unflavored 1% milk or fat-free flavored or unflavored milk;
• Up the number of fruits and vegetables that are offered;
• Increase whole grains significantly;