Excerpts from this article in PreparedFoods.com with my comments and thoughts:
Snacks sold in U.S. schools from next year (July 2014) must be lower in fat, salt and sugar, according to federal rules aimed at giving students more nutritious options and fighting childhood obesity.
This has been taking too long. Measures like this should have been implemented at least 15 years ago, along with restoring and making mandatory again the physical activity in elementary and high school. As far as the second item, I’m glad that it was a mandatory part of my education in Bulgaria when I was a student.
Many U.S. children eat more than half of their daily calories at school. The regulations will cover some 50 million children attending more than 100,000 schools that are part of the federal school lunch program.
That’s good. 50 million is a good number — it represents roughly one sixth of the entire US population and possibly all kids… or at least the ones that go to school.
The standards only apply to foods and beverages sold on school campuses during the day, and limit vending machine snacks to a maximum of 200 calories per item – less than, for example, many regular-sized candy bars.
No big deal with the 200 calorie restriction — most regular-size snacks that fit into a vending machine fall within a 200-300 calorie range. For example a regular Snickers bar has 250 calories (from their website). What’s even more, a kid can choose to buy two instead of one item.
Granted, 50 calories each school day over a whole school year can add up to some serious numbers – something like 8,500 calories deficit in total, which translates to almost 2.5 pounds of fat NOT gained! So, this can go either way – it may help, it may not help. It will be interesting to see.
All foods sold must meet competitive nutrient standards, meaning they must have fruits, vegetables, dairy or protein in them or contain at least 10% of the daily value of calcium, potassium, vitamin D or dietary fiber.
I suspect that this complex requirement will be very difficult to enforce. For one, it’s too vague — it leaves room for different interpretations and from there — loop holes.
Another thing that worries me it doesn’t do much as far as making foods healthy. The problem is it’s already too complex to try to make it even more complex. It might be a good start… but on paper only.
Twelve-ounce drinks cannot exceed 60 calories, less than the calorie count of most sodas.
Simple math tells the story — 5 calories max per ounce or around 1 gram of sugar per ounce. So, a 12-oz (one can) of soda can not have more than 12-14 grams of sugar. My suspicion is this is still a lot for refined sugar added on top of a solid meal. But, it’s a step in the right direction.
A problem might arise from the fact that kids in this country are used to their drinks being sweet (I mean really sweet). So, since 12-14 grams of sugar won’t provide the desired sweetness, the rest will most likely come from artificial sweeteners. Add that to the refined sugar and the end effect isn’t going to be too healthy of a drink… again.
And the portion sizes vary between age groups. Younger students will be able to buy water, 100 percent juice, and low-fat and fat-free milk in 8oz. servings, while high school students can also purchase 20oz. calorie-free drinks.
Portion control is good, and 8 oz is about the max size that younger kids should have — of anything but water — but again who is to guarantee that kids won’t just buy two drinks?! Size limit, to be effective, should be accompanied by quantity limit – one per kid per meal.
20 oz for high school students is still a big portion for any person even if it is 100 percent juice (which is still a sugary drink — it’s what you are left with once you remove all the flesh and leave the sweat juice in the cup).
In general, these are all steps in the right direction. I am just worried that they will be difficult to enforce due to their vagueness, they are not enough to bring about a significant improvement in the health of young individuals. If proven to work at least some, then we will know in what direction to take more similar steps.
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