Yesterday, the USDA shared its next generation of proposed regulations in the fight against childhood obesity. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 was the first school lunch reform in over three decades – the same three decades that saw a 300% increase in childhood obesity. Last year, the government targeted school lunch standards and this newest piece of legislation is aimed at “competitive foods” such as those found in vending machines and snack bars.
This is a big story for all of us because soda, sports drinks and fruit juices are prominent sources of sugar in our children’s diets. Habitual consumption of these beverages is augmented by candy, chips and pastries, causing significant health concerns for future generations. The new rules, which are subject to a 60-day comment period, would limit calories, fat, sugar and sodium on a per portion basis. To the government’s credit, exceptions will be made for some healthy fats including cheeses (though only reduced fat), nuts and nut butters.
Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said “This is great news for the country, for children, for families, It’s a step toward getting junk food out of vending machines and schools.” So what exactly will this look like? Take a look at some of the healthier options that will be blessing our schools’ vending machines:
Examples of “Healthier” School Snacks
Low Calorie Soda
The only difference between regular soda and low calorie or diet soda is that the sugar in regular soda is replaced with chemicals known as excitotoxins. If the name doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, feel free to read more about them here: Excitotoxins: Chemicals that Destroy Your Health.
One of the biggest food myths in our culture is that sugar from fruit is somehow better for you. 2-3 servings of fresh fruit is already pushing it and dried fruit has astronomically higher sugar content by volume, even if none was added during processing.
Fat Free Chocolate Milk
We looked at five popular brands of fat free chocolate milk and found that on average, each serving had about 24 grams of sugar. FYI: A standard Snickers bar has 27 grams.
Everyone seems to think that granola bars are so much better than candy bars, but in reality, most are not. Whole grains, dried fruits and added sweeteners spike blood sugar too.
This raises a great deal of concern about the definition of “junk food”, but even more about how people are identifying “healthy”. One article on CTV News even mentioned “low-fat hamburgers” as a new addition to the party. ah…???…um…ok, moving on.
Big Picture: Is This A Step In The Right Direction For School Snacks?
Surveys show that parents are in favor of lunchroom changes, so it is good to see that something is happening. A the end of the day, it is good to replace extremely unhealthy foods with slightly less unhealthy foods, but that doesn’t mean we should feel good about our kids eating them. It is also imperative that we don’t start teaching our children that these foods are healthy. The bottom line is that currently, there are no healthy foods in vending machines and we need to protect our children because right now we filtering their cigarettes instead of throwing them in the trash.
Do you think these new school snack rules are a meaningful step? Leave your comment below.
Photo Credit: irrezolut