Last night I watched the premiere of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and I'm happy to report that it was everything I hoped it would be. Jamie is doing his best to alert parents of the low quality of food being served in most public schools around the nation. The start of the show was hard to stomach as Jamie showed how convenience meats sold in the U.S. are manufactured. I won't get into the details, but let me just say there were leftover fat trimmings and ammonia involved. From there he went onto focus on the amount of processed sugar schools are providing to kids on a daily basis. One milk executive rationalized having flavored milk in schools because it's a way to get kids to drink milk. I wanted to bang my head against a wall at that point. Of course kids will eat/drink almost anything if you sugar coat it enough!
So, why is sugar such a big deal? One out of three children born after the year 2000 will be diagnosed with Type II diabetes before they are 50 years old. Not to mention the rising obesity rates among children in the United States. The American Heart Association recommends school aged children ages 4-8 consume no more than 3 teaspoons a day (12 grams) and teens ages 10-18 get no more than 5-8 teaspoons (20-32 grams) of added sugar per day. Studies show that children ages 1-3 are getting on eating an average of 12 teaspoons (48 grams) sugar/day, children ages 4-8 are eating an average of 21 teaspoons (84 grams) sugar/day, and teens ages 14-18 are eating an average of (hold onto your seats for this one) 34 teaspoons (136 grams) sugar/day! Is it any wonder diabetes diagnoses and obesity rates are on the rise?
The national standards used to determine what constitutes a healthy lunch in public schools doesn't include fiber, sodium or sugar content. So long as schools meet a minimum calorie level, 1/3 the daily requirement of calcium, iron, vitamin A and C, have a maximum of 30% of calories from fat, a 1/2-3/4 cup of fruit & veggie along with 8 ounces of milk they are within the "healthy standards". In my opinion, the effect sugar has on both the body and the brain is too important to ignore. Piling sugar filled foods on our children's lunch trays is setting them up for failure on so many levels. The scary thing is that sugar has become so common and so accepted in our society that it's really hard to determine which foods would have less sugar. Companies often package and market their foods in such a way that make it nearly impossible to know if it's loaded with sugar or not. Let me give you an example...take a look at the lunches below. Which lunch does your gut tell you contains more sugar? Lunch A or Lunch B?
If you guessed Lunch B...WRONG! While Lunch A looks like it has a variety of healthy options, there are added sugars galore in each of those foods. Lunch B, while still not a "healthy lunch", contains less sugar than Lunch A. In reality, neither option is a good option and that's why I feel so passionate about the public schools needing a complete overhaul when it comes to the quality of food they are serving our children.
Of course there are other factors that go into making a healthy meal. We need to consider what else is in the foods being served to our kids. While a sloppy joe might look healthy, it could very well be filled with sugar, additives and who knows how the meat was manufactured. However, today I just wanted to focus on the topic of sugar and the impact it is having on our youth.
I do want to take a moment to thank my wonderful husband. Today is my birthday and when he asked what I wanted as a gift, I told him all I wanted was uninterrupted time to write a big blog post here on This Lunch Rox. So here it is...this is my birthday present and I LOVE IT! I love having time to write about something I am so passionate about and sharing information with anyone who is interested.
And here's a peek at today's lunch: roast beef, spinach and cheese roll-up in Joseph's Lavash bread, celery/pb (substitute sunbutter if peanut allergies are an issue), cantaloupe, mini muffins, string cheese