Open thread: Nutrition

I’ve really enjoyed the comments from nutritionists and other experts about school lunches.

Please discuss the nutritional requirements of school lunches and optimal nutrition for children. There have been some interesting comments about the fat and carb needs of kids being different than those of adults. I’m just wondering what to believe. Thanks!

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44 Responses to Open thread: Nutrition

  1. frogfarm March 13, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    http://www.paleonu.com/panu-weblog/2009/5/18/there-are-no-essential-carbohydrates-even-for-athletes.html

    Human breast milk is relatively high in carbs, like you'd expect when nature is trying to make the child increase in size so rapidly. But it's also high in the most important macronutrient — fat. Kids have higher carb tolerance mostly because they haven't damaged their metabolism with excess carbs, especially fructose:

    http://weightmaven.org/2009/12/05/sugar-the-bitter-truth/

    Excess omega-6 is also a major problem with today's abundant processed foods and vegetable oils:

    http://www.paleonu.com/panu-weblog/2009/6/22/fats-and-oils.html

    We have famines not because we lack the resources to feed people properly, but because of problems relating to distribution. And we have hunger because people eat too much of that which makes them hungry, rather than proper food. In a food-abundant society, carbohydrate is a choice, not a requirement.

    PS: Even though I believe all the best evidence supports our evolutionary heritage as meat eaters:

    http://www.proteinpower.com/drmike/peta-cspi-and-other-menaces/are-we-meat-eaters-or-vegetarians-part-i/

    I would still NEVER advocate that a child be seized from parents who fed it a vegan of vegetarian diet, at least in the absence of a clear, demonstrable and immediate harm to the child. Likewise, I would never advocate that any of the above things I believe are harmful to health be "banned", and I find it depressing how many low-carbers and "real food" advocates call for the gun of government instead of working through education and persuasion. Let the low-fat propagandists resort to subsidies, bans and bad science, as they have for the past half century. Truth will out.

  2. frogfarm March 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    PPS: As far as kids and zero carb: Margot, her husband and kids have had fantastic results:

    http://forum.zeroinginonhealth.com/showthread.php?tid=2461 (pictures)

    http://forum.zeroinginonhealth.com/showthread.php?tid=986 (journal)

    And have you heard of the "ketogenic diet", the high-fat very-low-carb way to cure epilepsy?

    http://www.charliefoundation.org/faq

  3. frogfarm March 13, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    PPPS: Last post, honest. Apologies for not thinking of everything in one. As for whether anything I've advocated above is "sustainable" for our current population, I refer you to Lierre Keith's "The Vegetarian Myth" for a critique of agriculture and defense of animal consumption not only on health grounds, but environmental and moral:

    http://www.lierrekeith.com/vegmyth.htm

    Your personal values inform every choice you make. And it's up to each of us to bear the consequences if our choices turn out bad, rather than forcing others to pay the price.

  4. Anonymous March 13, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    I am a holistic nutrition student in Canada.

    There are so many different 'healthy' ways of eating. Everybody has a different view of what is 'healthy' even in a field such as holistic nutrition – there are those that advocate low-fat, those that advocate veganism/vegetarianism, those that are more traditional/paleo, etc., etc.

    For myself, the way of eating that resonates most is the "Nourishing Traditions" style of eating. Our ancestors lived for thousands of years without the multitude of degenerative diseases we have today – very little heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, etc. Coincidence? I don't think so!

    When I start to practice, I will advocate real food! As much home-made as possible – it's always healthier than anything you can buy prepared in the supermarket, and it always tastes better.

    As for kids and school lunches – I'm only beginning to appreciate the fact that elementary schools in my area don't have cafeterias – maybe a pizza or hotdog day once a week, but that's it.

    I truly believe that the only way that a change can seen in the kids, is to drastically change their lunches, if what Mrs. Q is posting here is the norm. Things have to be made on site, from real food. Every school should have a garden, which the kids tend (thereby teaching them gardening skills, and the rewards of growing their own foods). Hormone-free meat and milk; fresh, local veggies, etc, should be what's offered, in a perfect world.

    And on the fat/carb front. Fat is necessary and excellent for health – if it is the right kind – no margerine, corn oil, soy oil, canola oil, etc. Real, unprocessed fat – butter, lard, tallow, coconut oil, olive oil, etc. Fat that people have been eating for centuries. I'm also a firm believer in full-fat milk – and not just for children. Traditionally, skim milk was only seen fit to FATTEN pigs on. In order to absorb the calcium and vitamins in milk, the fat is necessary. Ideally, the milk would be raw, but that is a whole other issue. Whole, unhomogenized, and organic is second-best. Fat is the highest of the macronutrients in calories per gram, which is part of the reason its gotten such a bad rap. But this also means it creates satiation quickest. Low fat keeps people feeling hungry longer, so they eat more, therefore contributing to obesity, rather than preventing as it's supposed to. They don't feel full, so they're still hungry, and they aren't getting the fat necessary to absorb the nutrients, so they're still hungry. It's been said that America isn't over-nourished, its malnourished!

    The carb issue is very touchy. Many people believe that whole grains are excellent for health. Properly prepared – soaked, sour-leavened, or sprouted – I think they are healthy. Improperly prepared whole grains contain phytates, which inhibit the absorption of certain nutrients, and also affect digestion. "White", processed grains don't have the nutrients, but they also don't have the phytates – essentially, they are void of just about everything, and all they are doing is providing a spike in blood sugar. Since I don't see properly prepared whole grains entering schools anytime soon (although showing kids how to sprout would be an excellent lesson – and sprouted grains make delicious baked goods) I would say it's time to start introducing kids to grains which soaking isn't as necessary – brown rice, quinoa, millet, etc.

    To finish,I believe that optimal nutrition for kids include lots of real fat, lots of organic fruits and veggies, lots of real meat and dairy products(hormone and antibiotic free, ideally pasture raised), lots of eggs, and whole grains (kept to a minimum if they aren't properly prepared).

  5. Anonymous March 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    As evidenced so far, this question will create a firestorm of people pushing all kinds of diets. We need to look for the agreement rather than the differences in the research. So, there are a few things I think we can agree on (I hope).

    The following foods are not necessary for our children to be healthy:
    -hot dogs
    -pizza
    -icees
    -tater tots
    -french fries
    -mac and cheese
    -hamburgers
    -and anything else deep fried or highly processed

    This is pure garbage food that is making American fat and sick.

    What do nutritionists agree on?

    Whole foods
    A diet primarily of vegetables, grains and legumes
    Processed and fried foods kept to a minimum

    Why is this so difficult to understand for schools?

    If we priced french fries in schools at $5 and fresh vegetables at $0.50 in our schools, what would kids buy?

    Better nutrition is not that difficult to grasp when you are dealing with the extremes of school lunch programs.

  6. zahirah March 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    As long as kids (and adults) eat whole foods (a variety of different fresh fruit and veggies, small amounts of animal protein if they choose to eat meat)they should get all the nutrients they need.

    Whether grains and dairy are healthy or not is a big issue, but I think most people would agree that processed foods and fried foods are not the best choices.

  7. Anonymous March 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    Just a quick comment –

    Pizza can be very healthy! My mom makes the best homemade pizza consisting of homemade crust, homemade tomato sauce, lots of organic veggies, usually some ground beef and/or local bacon, and organic cheese. Absolutely delicious, and an excellent way to get a variety of foods into kids. However, it takes time, ingredients, and manpower…

  8. kate March 13, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    if we want to see real, employable change in school lunches, it needs to be realistic. sorry, but cutting carbs out 100% out of kids lunches or demanding organic-only meals is not going to happen on a wide scale any time soon.

    you also have to consider the fact that kids are picky eaters. my family does eat all organic, but it took me awhile to actually enjoy organic milk–to a kid's tastebuds, different can be bad. nutrition is not only about providing kids with healthy foods, but making sure they EAT them–otherwise they'll just head over to the vending machines.

    that's not to say organic or low carb or any other healthy diet aren't good goals, or aren't attainable in the future, but small steps towards good nutrition are going to be the key, in my opinion. things that Mrs. Q suggests-like slicing the fruit so the kids will eat it, cutting back on sugars and desserts, etc., are the building blocks to getting kids eating healthy.

  9. kate March 13, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    also, for anybody interested—a 2009 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that any diet that deprives of a certain nutritional element, whether fat, protein, or carbs, pretty much produces the same weight loss results across the board. that is, one isn't more advantageous than the other.

    Sacks F, et al. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. NEJM. 2009; 360: 859-873.

  10. Maggie March 13, 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    I have thoughts similar to what Kate has posted. While we can’t be held hostage, so to speak, by what the students would prefer to have, if we managed to create THE perfect meal, if the students don’t eat the food, it doesn’t help.

    That’s where education needs to come into the picture.

    I know the focus today is nutrition, but food is so loaded with emotional and cultural issues. In the school setting we’ve seen that the physical facilities, such as kitchen equipment and space for students to eat come into play. Time for students to eat is a concern. As a whole, we’ve become very used to having many choices, having access to pretty much what we want, when we want it. Even young children are used to having individual choices for meals, not sitting down as a family with everyone eating the same thing at the same time. All these issues affect what we choose to eat.

    That is what seems overwhelming to me sometimes. Where to do we start to unravel it all?

    Mrs. Q, I hope that your blog will offer practical ideas for change. Changes at all levels of government can help, but are there things that can be done now, in the current framework? Ideas like cutting fresh fruit are the kind of thing I’m talking about (although we’ve heard valid reasons on both sides of that!) I would like to hear more of those ideas, so maybe we can start to “light a single candle” – so to speak – instead of “cursing (figuratively, of course) at the dark”.

    Also, Mrs. Q, I think a follow up on this post to show what changes would be needed to the current school meal patterns/nutrition regulations based on what is posted here would be interesting!

  11. frogfarm March 13, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    Maggie: My preferred "solution", such as it is, would be to remove top-down control that tries to fit everyone and everything into a single Procrustean bed, and return as much control as possible, as soon as possible, to the level of local community and family. "Let a thousand flowers bloom" isn't the communist way — it's the way of freedom.

    Kate: If weight loss is your only goal, there are plenty of unhealthy ways to achieve it. Personally, my goal is optimal overall health!

  12. Anonymous March 13, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    I'm a daily follower of your blog. Even though I don't have children, I am quite interested in nutrition (but am by no means an expert). I have had to learn alot more about nutrition in the last 2 years. Everyone on my dad's side of the family with the exception of my dad is a diabetic. My dad is "pre-diabetic". Four years ago, my mom–who had no history of diabetes in her family–contracted the disease (we believe from having pancreatitis when she was younger). Due to my family history, my dr started watching my blood sugar carefully. Two years ago, I found out that I was "pre-diabetic" also. My mom has done a great job of controlling her diet carefully & has gotten great results. When I realized that I was starting to have a problem, I changed my dietary habits dramatically & have not ventured in the diabetic "camp" thus far.

    On the mac & cheese day, I was the one who commented about concerns re: the high carb/low protein content of the lunches at your school. I noticed that a few people commented after me that they tho't children should be eating more carbs than adults. That made me curious so I did a very limited amount of research into the subject. What I found was that children & adults should have roughly the same % of their diet made up of carbs vs. protein (of course, it would be fewer carbs for those like me & my family)–it's just that children have a different total caloric intake than adults.

    I am in NO WAY advocating zero carbs. That's not a balanced diet. I'm just concerned that these meals seem to be a bit high in carbs & extremely low in protein (i.e. mac & cheese served w/ carrots, bread & fruit cup or the chili w/ the chips & icee). There's hardly a thimble full of protein in these meals. Carbs give short bursts of energy. . .protein keeps you from getting hungry throughout the day. I would be surprised if these kids are not on a sugar high after lunch & then crash & are starving before school let's out for the day.

    In the process of finding this info, I found a good web site, that I tho't might be of interest to you: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nutrition-for-kids/NU00606 from the Mayo Clinic. It gives the % of protein, carbs, sodium, etc. that children at different ages should have.

    I also remembered another web site that I use often & that I tho't might be useful to you as well: http://www.nutritiondata.com/ — on this site, you can put in practically any food & find a generic nutrition label for it. Tho't that might be useful at the end of the day to see how many calories, fat, sodium, carbs, protein, etc. might be in each of your school lunches. Additionally, this is a great web site at home–you can enter any recipe into it & it will generate a nutrition label for it.

    I am by no means an expert on this subject, but I do find it very interesting. I appreciate what you are doing with this blog. Keep up the good work.

  13. Lisa R. Suriano March 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    Kate: I am so glad you referenced the Sacks study. Just to add to why it was such a relevant and valid study:
    1. It was the largest study of its kind to date.
    2. It was the longest term study to date.

    Another very interesting conclusion drawn from the study was that social support was the key factor in determining whether subjects maintained their prescribed diets. Those that were given individual nutrition counseling and/or attended support groups consistently had the best results.

    Also, I am not 100% certain, but I do believe the researchers did take into account other epidemiology measures (i.e. blood pressure, lipid profiles, etc), not just weight loss.

  14. frogfarm March 15, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    Lisa, here's all the dueling medical citations you could ask for:

    http://charm.cs.uiuc.edu/users/jyelon/lowcarb.med/

    http://www.paleoforlife.org/research.php

    Randomized controlled trials are the gold standard, but you don't see many of those.

    "Social support" is probably the key factor because most people don't make their own decisions, but succumb to pressure from others. Which is sad. Nobody should let others dictate what they put into their bodies, unless they still live with their parents.

    Not everyone does best on the same proportions of macronutrients. But it's a simple fact that carbohydrate is unnecessary for human survival or health. With that in mind, I believe the best strategy is to avoid the neolithic agents of disease (grains, fructose, excess omega-6) and experiment from there to find your particular optimal diet.

  15. Goddess H. March 15, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    I'm so glad I found this blog,

    My daughter has had stomach problems for going on a year or two now, and I don't know if I can blame it all on the lunches served.

    I do know that she eats breakfast at 6:30 with us and doesn't have anything else to eat til 11:45. Almost 6 hours without anything to eat or drink.

    This will cause you to drop your blood sugar, never mind your concentration going right out the window.

    She has to hide if she needs a bite to eat,
    or go to the nurse* as a medical condition to have a snack.

    Since when is hunger a medical condition?

    I'm fed up, so to speak with the school, and the way they do things but they seem to think they are so right in their ways.

    It's nice to see someone that works for a school actually speak out. Thanks.

  16. jadydangel March 15, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    Holy Cow, Mrs Q! You're featured on AOL! Congratulations!!

  17. Stephanie March 15, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    I am in agreement with the folks here who are writing about higher quality protein and lower sugar/carb diets for children. I've been studying pilot programs in West Africa which follow annual rates of severe malnutrition in children under 5 for the last 6 years. Every year during the months between harvests, which is called the "hunger gap," thousands of children die as a result of not only too little food, but the wrong food. During this time when there are no crops for food or animals, and people can't afford the food in the markets, they rely on international food aid – which largely consists of a corn/soy porridge. This food is high in calories, but low in nutrients. It fills tummies and adults can survive (not thrive) on it; but children under 5, whose nutritional needs are specific since they are growing and developing rather quickly, do not survive on a grain-based diet and if they do, their growth is usually stunted. When fed some sort of animal protein – whether it's meat broth, milk (or a milk-based paste), or eggs – their situation turns around within a month. This information tells us that high quality protein is a necessity for proper growth and development – not to mention necessary for the prevention of diseases. High grain and sugar diets are the main cause of diabetes, heart disease, auto immune diseases like celiac, crohns, colitis, and food allergies. Today’s school lunches seem just as deficient in high quality protein as they are overly high in sugar and sugar producing foods – including wheat, soy, corn, rice, and even "whole wheat" bread (which is always sweetened).

    I also agree that processed "low-fat" foods should not be an option. All the vitamin D and nutrients in milk are contained in the fat. Today 60% of Americans are vitamin D deficient. We knew this during Rickets epidemics, but somehow now we've forgotten.

  18. Anonymous March 15, 2010 at 10:26 pm #

    Speaking as one of 'those kids' for whom school lunch was the most nutritious part of my day, I applaud the spirit of what you're trying to do here, but disagree with the substance. I would rather kids continue to get 310 calories in their disgusting peanut butter sandwich accompanied by 200-300 calories of pure junk than that the school pay for them to have a single healthy apple. You can buy a lot of canned pears for the cost of a pear, and there comes a point in school lunch where it is about quantity of calories available for the cost, not quality. Sure, I wish it tasted better, but most days my biggest complaint was that I wish there was more. How can we have healthier MORE caloric options in there, so we don't have kids too lethargic to make it through the day?

  19. Milehimama March 16, 2010 at 2:46 am #

    I would just be happy if they removed the non-food items from the menu – food colorings and MSG. My son actually can't eat them, and it was so very hard for him in the cafeteria (because even if I sent a lunch, there were tradesies.)

    My idea of how to reform school lunch isn't difficult but will take commitment. Serve food. Do not serve things that are not food.
    Make the food easy for a kid to eat (such as Mrs Q's idea for quartering the oranges). Talk about food in places other than the lunchroom. Serve at least one fresh ingredient every day.

  20. Milehimama March 16, 2010 at 2:48 am #

    And about that Vitamin D deficiency a previous poster mentioned: the lack of outdoor recess and the ability to walk to and from school surely is not helping. At my local elementary school, all of the children are bussed or car riders. No walkers. No bikes.

  21. Hannah Miller March 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Kate and Lisa: I do not believe that the Sacks study tells us anything meaningful about how restricting a certain macronutrient could lead to weight loss.

    First, the targeted percentages for each diet were all within the government's Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges. No diet was set up to test the extremes of low-fat or low-carbohydrate diets, and no one was "deprived," strictly speaking, from eating fat or carbohydrates.

    Second, "mean reported intakes at 6 months and 2 years did not reach the target levels for macronutrients." This means that participants weren't eating what the researchers assigned them to eat, and by year two were eating pretty similar diets.

    It's great to have long-term studies with lots of participants, but adherence is tough and over-interpretation tempting.

  22. Nici March 17, 2010 at 3:05 pm #

    I have been reading your blog for about a month now, and am appalled (but not surprised) by the carb and fat content of the meals your school provides.

    As a Type 1 Diabetic since childhood, I was often forced to pack my lunch because the school lunch was simply unhealthy. The typical diabetic diet is a healthy, well balanced diet, and I could not afford to consume the fat, carbs, and calories my school offered.

    Did you know that vegetables like peas, potatoes, and corn are actually carbohydrate exchanges, not vegetable exchanges? Despite this, the school lunch program counts these foods as vegetables in their daily requirements!

    I recently wrote a post on my blog about my disdain for school lunches and the school lunch program in general. Feel free to take a look:

    http://typeoneandttc.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/pet-peeve-unhealthy-school-lunches/

    I'm not sure how to get the wheels of change moving, but count me in if you think of a plan.

    Nici
    A sweet journey to motherhood

  23. ItsYourNetNow March 17, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    Take a look at Teresa Tapp's program that was created for teachers and students. It is very simple exercises that help the body properly process the carbs and sugars and get the body working not only aerobically but helps to stimulate the left/right brain, mind and body.

    https://store.t-tapp.com/products/TappCore-DVD.html

    Search her site. There are many teachers that have started using the "Hoe Down" move of Teresa's before tests and/or as a 2 minute break in the classroom and grades are going up.

    Nutrition needs to be combined with proper physical activity for optimal health.

    I do not work for T-Tapp (in fact, I work with a competitor) but I whole-heartedly support her work and programs.

  24. Anonymous March 17, 2010 at 11:39 pm #

    I just wanted to say thanks for doing this. I did a paper while in the 10th grade on childhood obesity and how school lunches were a contributing factor. Salads were only offered to the kids that could afford it and sadly, those like myself either had to rely on packing a lunch or you got what the school provided through the reduced lunch program. When your family could barely afford to put food on the table at dinner time you had to resort to whatever was provided through the school which sadly tended to be sodium enriched and vitamin lacking preprocessed crap…I do not miss those days. It's sad to think that our school system doesn't care about the education of our children let alone their nutrition. We are there to learn about a lot more than text book lingo. So teaching nutrition where our kids spend a good 14 years of their life is crucial. We learn from our environment so of course if all we know is microwaveable, preprocessed, and fast food that is what we will lean towards when it comes down to making decisions for ourselves later on down the road. Our country, not just our school systems are so screwed up. Let's hope the President actually cares about our kids as much as he claims he does and actually does something instead of sitting on his hands like he has been with health care.

  25. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 12:19 am #

    I just graduated from high school and I completely agree with how nasty school lunch food is. If you buy the schools version of pizza, you fold it in half an nothing but grease squeezes out. The chicken sandwiches are fried processed junk and the fries rival McDonalds on how unhealthy they are. Just to prove how bad this food is, I am a perfect example. My sophomore year I got double fries almost everyday during the school year and gained over ten pounds. That summer when I was out of school and not eating their nasty food, I lost all of it. People wonder why kids in america are so unhealthy and school lunches are part of the reason why. To Mrs. Q, you rock for doing this and it would be completely ridiculous if you got into any kind of trouble for your blog. You are just showing how many things in schools need to change.

  26. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 1:26 am #

    did you see this artcle in time magazine?

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1967060,00.html

  27. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    I am a nutrition student at Penn State, and I came across your blog from the Yahoo article.

    In terms of what some of the people have been saying, from my own understanding of nutrition (which I'll be the first to admit I'm not an RD), there are so many misguided pieces of information out in the media which cause people to do dangerous things like cut out all carbs or all fats.

    Carbs are necessary for not only growth in children, but the ability to maintain health, as well as sustaining life. If carbohydrate intake is too low, then the proteins and fats within the body will be used, and those functions which use those two macronutrients will be severely impaired, and can lead to death.

    While people always have a habit of blaming fats for their problems, they're really not seeing fats for what they are. Lipids are extremely important, and in general are meant to be taken in a higher amount than protein. Granted, if there were to be a choice, olive oil and canola oil are the two healthiest oils, while the saturated fats in butter should be used in a minimum.

    Mostly, America's problem is too high of a protein intake. In terms of adults, who doesn't love some steak and potatoes? Red meat is the biggest culprit, but this can easily be substituted for things like chicken, or fish, or turkey.

    Anyway, a vegan or vegetarian diet, unless directed by a doctor, is not very healthy for a child. Children need the calories from things like cheese, milk, yogurt, and meats. Also, if a child is put on a vegan diet, it is incredibly difficult for that child to get the recommended daily amount of calcium. I'll admit that I don't like PETA very much, but there was a woman who was giving a speech that I saw online, and she was talking about how much healthier it was for a child to not have milk, and that is the most devious thing I've ever heard a person say. Not only is there calcium in milk, but there are other nutrients in milk which help that calcium to be absorbed in the body. In terms of milk, children should start drinking whole milk around the age of two, in order that they can have enough fat in their diet to keep up with their growing body. When they are three, they should start to drink 1 or 2% milk, then finally when they are four they should start drinking fat free milk.

    Anyway, my milk rant aside, in terms of picky eaters, one of my professors was talking about how when she had just started to work for a clinic, they would take children and keep them in a room in the clinic (basically a hospital room), there the child would sleep, play, eat, etc. The children who were put there were brought by their parents because they were such severe picky eaters. The nutritionists (my professor included) would bring the child a meal, at which point he would often throw a tantrum because it wasn't the meal he wanted. So they took the meal away. Then later they would bring another meal, and again the child would refuse to eat it. So, around the second day, the child would finally break down and clean the entire plate of foods they had hated, and afterwards they stopped being picky eaters. Just thought I would throw that out there.

    Good luck Mrs. Q!

  28. Kara March 18, 2010 at 2:16 am #

    I am not a nutritionist, nor do I ALWAYS eat healthy, but I did notice something as I was growing up.
    My siblings and I have a large-ish gap between us in years. My brother is 6 years younger, my sister is 12 years younger. We have been educated in the same school district.
    I ate (fruits vegetables and very little snack food) and took care of myself better (participated in some sports, exercised in my off time) than my brother growing up. I ended up average size upon graduation of high school. I was also a very average size child from kindergarten through to graduation. My brother, who eats junk food, school lunches, and didn't have the recess periods I did (because they cut recess time) grew up on the obese side. He hs always been chubby and has taken the time and effort after graduation to try and change his body and eating habits. But 18 years of habits are very hard to change.
    Again, I may not be a nutritionist, and I know one example of this is not a good sample of micro to macro, but it should be taken as something to look for from my part of this generation ( I am not 24) to my brother's part (he is currently 18). It hasn't taken long for the changes to happen, but they have and they are dynamic.

  29. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 3:52 am #

    I was under the impression that all schools had to follow a certain guideline with nutrition, but my impressions have been wrong before. Being a parent myself, I completely understand wanting a child to get the best nutrition possible but sometimes they just don't. Sometimes its by choice and sometimes its because there isn't another option. Honestly I don't know a single person that doesn't let there kids eat unhealthy every now and then. The school lunches might be processed foods but at least they are serving a meal at all. They may not taste the best, but I've tried a lot of organic foods that taste worse than anything I ever ate at school. And for those of you worried about the ever increasing obesity of our youth, don't blame it on the school's lunch, blame it on yourselves for allowing your children to do nothing but sit on the couch watching tv/playing video games, make them go outside and play a little. I ate the school lunch everyday growing up, and yeah sometimes it made me a little queasy, but I turned out alright and I'm about as healthy as a person can be according to my doctor.

  30. Susan March 18, 2010 at 4:17 am #

    Bless you for fighting for our country's most precious resource!

  31. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 4:23 am #

    I know I'm in for some debate over this, but I thought this is some information everyone should know.
    Everyone agrees, for the most part, that olive oil and nuts are healthy, yes? They contains the monounsaturated fats that our bodies need. Well, bacon and HOTDOGS contain the same fats as olive oil and nuts. So to say that schools should never serve hotdogs is not going to be a solution for anything. The key to any diet is moderation. You can eat ANYTHING as long as you don't overdo it.
    I definitely think that schools have issues with their food that should be addressed, but I don't think that schools are the only problem. Parents are so afraid to take responsibility for anything regarding their children, so the schools are an easy scapegoat. There are even people that blame the availability of fast food as the reason their children are obese.
    I honestly believe that it comes down to cost. As someone else mentioned, canned peaches are far cheaper than fresh, and they won't rot before schools can serve them. The people that want their children to eat healthy (and don't trust the schools' lunch menu) will spend the extra time and money to pack a healthier alternative for their child.
    On a sidenote, I have a child. He's not in school yet, but once he is he will be eating the school lunch. But, he won't be having takeout or restaraunt food for dinner. He will have farm-fresh meat, produce from our garden, and milk. I ate school lunch (the one for the low-income kids that couldn't choose from the a la carte options), and I never had a problem with it. I was always a healthy weight, but I wasn't allowed to come home and sit in front of the television or play video games all evening long.

    Parents, do some parenting. Yes, we should make the options as healthy as the schools can afford, but let's not blame the institutions that do as much raising of our children as we do.

  32. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 4:30 am #

    I wanted to bring a few other issues into light about school lunches:
    – On steak finger or chicken nugget day they serve 5-6. About the same amount to 18 year old adults as they serve to 5 year olds.
    -Many studens play sports and have an athletic period, several students have passed out due to lack of food, or skipping lunch.
    -It is now a crime to eat outside of the classroom or share food. In Texas the act of eating in the classroom can get the school fined, and if a governmental staff member witnesses the sharing of food, the school can get fined $2000. Since when did sharing become punishable by law?

    Im tired of the government implimenting thier "healthy" food on students and insiting child obesiety is all over the place. The problem doesn't lie with the food, it is with the lack of education. So stop punishing those who actually need to eat so they wont pass out!

  33. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 6:00 am #

    There isn't enough time for kids to eat lunch. They learn how to enhale food. But school food doesn't have to be nasty. A school program can have fresh salads and healthy sandwiches, fresh fruit ( cut-up), can fruit, rich bowls etc. daily and still break even if not make a profit. But it takes the nutrtion program and employees working together.
    One program close to me is Bellevue, Washington. Check out their menu its great and the food is nutritous.
    The pictures Ms. Q shows of the food is gross! Good Luck and thanks for bringing this to the fore front!!

  34. Erica Lyn March 18, 2010 at 7:00 am #

    I just found out about your blog as it was featured on Yahoo News this morning. I am very impressed and so glad that you have started this. That being said, I do not think there needs to be any certain type of 'diet' for our nations children. This needs to be a 'lifestyle' change and make over on how the school teaches nutrition, if it's taught at all. The key words here are 'practice what you preach/teach'. I am a mother of a young toddler, and seeing these pictures takes me back to my childhood when my sisters and I were on free/reduced lunch, and my mother was a single mom working full time and sometimes a part time job, as well, just to make ends meet. Needless to say, ALL of our meals were over processed and/or prepackaged. As a result, everyone in my family (apart from myself) is overweight and not particularly active. However, even though I was not overweight, does not mean I was healthy based on the foods I ate.

    As I have gotten older and become more conscious of food and how it affects health, I have recently begun a 'Clean Eating' lifestyle for my family. This, by far, is better than any so called diet out there, in my opinion. I also think that eating clean would be the best option for our schools. The basic principle is this…

    "It's simple, really. Consuming food in it's most natural state–or as close as possible to it–is the soul of clean eating. It's not a diet; it's a lifestyle approach to food and it's preparation, leading to health, well-being, and a lean look." -http://www.cleaneatingmag.com/minisite/ce_index.htm

    This approach to food does not exempt any food group at all. In fact, every group of food is vital for our bodies to function properly, i.e. lean proteins, complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruits, veggies, etc), and healthy fats (yes, FATS) as Olive Oil, nuts, seeds, etc. And, I will not forget to express how important Water is to everything on our planet. Water is a life source. Nothing can live without it. The human body can go days, even weeks with little to no food, but will only be able to survive a few days without water. The Clean Eating principles can also be easily adapted to Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-Free, or any other allergy/health issue concerns. The only 'food' group that is eliminated (if it is even considered a food group) is processed, prepackaged, man made, items. These basic life sustaining principles are what our government/schools need to focus on, in my opinion, in order to help our children with their health now, in order to insure their success with overall health and well being in their future.

    Thank you Ms. Q, for giving us readers a voice on this matter. Hopefully, everyone's ideas and opinions will help make a difference some day soon.

  35. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    When I was growing up and in school, we always had homemade lunches at our school. Only a few items where frozen, or prepackaged. Most of our food was bought in bulk and then made that day. We had a few sweets like cookies or cake, but again those were homemade and not prepackaged. I graduated from High School in 2002, so not that long ago. Sometime in my junior year the way lunches were prepared changed, and how they were bought was different. The school had changed distributors because the new distributor was cheaper, and with the regulations on food and how it is processed and handled, and regulations on preparing foods in schools, it became cheaper and easier for schools to buy prepackaged and frozen foods. I remember going into the school a couple years after I graduated to get my brother during his lunch period and the food on his plate looked nasty and the school had a funny smell because of the lunches prepared. But not nearly half as bad as the pictures that I am seeing on this blog.

    Mrs. Q, As a teacher myself, I know how much you have on the line by having this blog, and I just want to tell you that you have my absolute respect. I am hoping that enough people realize how bad the school lunches are and that there will be a change back to where school lunches used to be. Good luck to you!

  36. frogfarm March 18, 2010 at 11:09 am #

    "Carbs are necessary for not only growth in children, but the ability to maintain health, as well as sustaining life. If carbohydrate intake is too low, then the proteins and fats within the body will be used, and those functions which use those two macronutrients will be severely impaired, and can lead to death."

    It would help if you provided references rather than simply making unsubstatiated claims. Of course, no matter what any theoretical research says, we know from practical, real-life experience that carbohydrate is not required for human survival or health. I'm surprised that someone who realizes fat isn't bad for you doesn't know that as well. But you may want to look up gluconeogenesis, as well as the difference between ketosis and ketoacidosis, for starters. If you really believe what you wrote above, you should immediately contact child welfare agencies and report all those crazy people who don't feed their children carbohydrate — and if you don't, it's clear that you either don't have the courage of your convictions, or you know despite your statements here that carbohydrate is a choice, not a requirement.

  37. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 1:30 pm #

    I applaud you Mrs. Q for speaking up about what is being served for school lunches. I don't understand why the cost is such a major concern for the school corporations. My youngest daughter is about 4 months old and when I learned I was pregnant, I told my husband that we needed to start eating healthier. I've always been at the low end of a healthy weight, and sometimes even considered underweight due to unhealthy eating habits. I would snack all day long on unhealthy things (chips/candy/cookies/hotpockets/fried anything), but would only eat one decent meal. It caused problems in my first pregnancy so eating a healthy, well-rounded meal made sense. We were on a very strict budget at the time, and a lot of organic's were just way too expensive for us. We lived in the middle of a city in an apartment so our own garden wasn't an option. I'm still not completely sure how we did it, but we managed to have fresh fruits and veggies, almost never anything fried (i slipped up every now and then), and never any processed frozen "meats" (chicken nuggets, fish sticks, that sort of thing), and we still stayed on the same budget as before. So I am a bit confused why it's so hard for the schools to manage the same thing. I realize they are buying on a much larger scale, but when deciding how we were going to stay on budget, we realized that the frozen veggies were more expensive the buying fresh. We got more out of our money if we bought fresh fruits too. I guess I am just not understanding why its possible for some people to accomplish healthy meals on a low budget and why some people say its just not possible or maybe its just that they don't want to have to do the work and shop around for the best prices. Either way, it's not like they need to do an all out overhaul and change everything, but just making one or two foods on the tray a little bit healthier would be good enough for the time being. A step in the right direction.

  38. MamaBear March 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    I see all those individually wrapped packages and have to wonder how they are heated. My guess would be a commercial microwave of some sort? Even the 'healthy' containers of veggies that I sometimes see in your lunch would be negated by what happens when you microwave food.. ( http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/11/05/microwave-food.aspx )

    I am new to your blog – has this issue been addressed anywhere else?

  39. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    Im so happy that you are doing this!!! You are totally right, school lunches suck! I haven't eaten in days because its so gross! Keep doing what your doing!! Thanks!

  40. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    The only healthy lunch day at my school in DFW, TX is Friday when tuna sandwiches are offered.
    Only 20 are made each Friday, and there are four lunches. I constantly find myself sneaking into the first lunch between my passing periods to get one for myself and another for a teacher who doesn't have the luxury of leaving her room.
    I can say easily, that this meal, is the only one prepared/served by my school that is healthy. Way to go.

  41. Anonymous March 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm #

    Give me a break. Your school board probably already knows who you are and your blog. You will probably get a book deal out of this, so don't feign your stress about getting fired.

  42. Ironica March 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm #

    @ Anonymous nutrition student from Penn State… I really, really hope that as you continue your studies, you get some of your info from somewhere besides the USDA and the Dairy Council. NO child needs (and many children SHOULD NOT have) cow milk. *All* children need "milk" up through age 2, and ideally through age 5… but that means human milk, which is often substituted by artificial baby milk, artificial toddler milk, and then cow milk for ages birth-1, 1-2, and 2-5. The substitutes are suboptimal, and for the large (and growing) number of children who suffer skin issues, digestive problems, respiratory inflammation, and/or behavioral responses to animal dairy consumption, they are harmful.

    Calcium is a single nutrient, and there has been far too much focus on it. Still, you can get good amounts of calcium from sesame seeds, green leafy veggies, bone broths, and other sources. Most of the WORLD doesn't eat dairy routinely; non-dairy-consuming cultures in many cases attain much better health indicators than the US.

    As the mom of two food-allergic children, I can't imagine a point at which my kids will *ever* be able to eat a school lunch. Our local elementary school is a Title I school with 87% of students entitled to free or reduced-price lunch, and I'm sad about what it is they're eating (or not eating). It comes down to cost, but in an insidious fashion: the school lunch program (along with the WIC program) are part of the USDA's system of subsidies to agriculture. They buy the products that are overproduced, and unload them on our children and their mothers. Nutritional justification is an afterthought; if we overproduced arugula and quinoa, they'd be down near the bottom of the food pyramid and featured three times a week in your school lunches, and we'd figure out how to explain this in terms of nutrition.

    There is no single food that is necessary or verboten for anyone. There are food categories that are better and worse sources of nutrients; most of the things that require agriculture to produce fall into the "worse" category, which comes as no surprise; beans and grains have LOTS of calories per nutrient, while leaves, berries, and nuts have lots of nutrients per calorie.

    I'm not NT or Paleo or Atkins or any particular food philosophy… I'm just a mom who has read a ton of research and discussion seeking healthy, tasty meals to serve her family that omit gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, sorghum, canola (which is NOT the second-healthiest oil; it's just cheaper than sunflower and safflower, both of which have higher Omega-3 content), artificial colors, artificial flavors, and preservatives. It turns out, there's a TON available to us, and we eat well. I wish everyone had the same experience.

  43. "Morethnrubies1" March 18, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

    Just an interesting bit of personal experience. I took over the kitchen of a (private) school for Severely Emotionally Disturbed children, when I started they ate, well, mostly pre-prepared convienence foods, almost nothing was fresh all canned, boxed, instant or frozen. I was given just enough freedom (as fully regulated by state guidelines of course…which was quite frankly a paperwork nightmare) to get a salad bar started (it was hard "balancing" the required fat to caloire ratio as veggies are low cal as compared to even low-fat dressings), and I also made fresh fruit available at all times to both students and staff. As we slowly phased out the "junk" food and brought in more home-made and fresh items there was a marked improvemnt in the students behaivior! We also had less waste as we let the kids pick out what they wanted. Many of the kids were higly medicated and the junk foods, dyes, and preservatives interfeared in a negative way with both their meds and their body chemistry. It was absolutely amazing to see what just a little more healty fare could do! I didn't follow any fad diet or theory, just figured some fresh, unprocessed foods would taste good.

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