Thursday, March 31, 2011

Top 10 Ways for Kids to Do Better in School


Childhood depression and anxiety are on the rise. And numerous studies now suggest that those blue feelings may be coming from blue food coloring, and red, and yellow….The chemicals in fake food have side effects. In a very real way, we are implicating our kids in a massive chemical burden test, a living breathing human guinea pig experiment.

Commonly used food additives may affect behavior. You wouldn’t give your kid a beer for breakfast and then wonder why he scored badly on a test, but in many ways that is just what we are doing, serving them chemical time bombs in the form of “nutritious” lunches. We know that 30% of the U.S. population is MSG sensitive, with side effects that range from dizziness to lack of focus to fainting, yet there is no ban on MSG in school food; in fact, it is one of the most ubiquitous additives.

We know American kids suffer exponentially from ADD, ADHD and other attention-related disorders, conditions that have been shown to be triggered and heightened by exposure to commonly used synthetic food colorings and preservatives. Yet these additives have not been banned from school food. On the contrary; you are more likely to find higher concentrations of these additives in the low cost, low value, long-life foodstuffs served to our children in the school lunchroom than in any of a number of fast food restaurants.


In New York State, the law requires an 8 ounce serving of milk with every tax subsidized school lunch. That means a carton of milk on every tray, with every lunch served out of public school cafeterias, wanted or not. Aside from the horrific waste this represents, much of this milk comes from cows treated with rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone), which is administered so cows produce more milk in less time. That’s great for the dairies and for the maker of rBGH, Monsanto. Not necessarily great for the cows, and definitely not for us.

There have been no good studies of the long-term effects of rBGH in humans, and there is certainly no nutritive benefit. In fact, in some studies it is linked to obesity and cancer. rBGH is completely banned in Germany, and clear labeling is required in the UK. Why are American schoolchildren being given it regularly, without labeling--and why are schools pushing it on our kids?

With all the budget cuts and all the supplies needed for our kids, and all kids, removing the mandatory milk carton might be a great way to begin to balance the budget.

The overall chemical burden on American children is unprecedented, without comparison to the rest of the world. Environmental-related illnesses in children—including asthma, cancer, ADD/ADHD, allergies and diabetes--are at an all-time high. And the eventual onset of infertility and Parkinson’s is not the legacy we wish to leave our children. They deserve better than this, and our society does too. We owe it to this generation of kids to find a pathway out of this chemical wasteland, and one of the easiest and fastest ways is to just say no to Frankenfood.

Here’s the Top 10 List for Better School Food (reprinted with permission from

  1. Eliminate All Products Containing Partially Hydrogenated Oils
    1. Trans fats increase harmful LDL cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease.
  2. Eliminate High Fructose Corn Syrup
    1. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has a high glycemic index and converts to fat more than any other sugar. It increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease, strokes, and cancer. Americans consumed on average 62.6 pounds of HFCS in 2001 according to the USDA. Many of the products on the market containing HFCS are geared towards children.
  3. Pay Attention to Portion Size
    1. Researchers have found that portion size matters as much as taste when it comes to overeating. A recent study showed that large packages and containers prompted people to eat more than the actual recommended serving size regardless of taste. These oversized packages can be especially confusing to children, who may not look at nutrition labels regarding varying portion sizes - especially worrisome because children and teenagers are getting a greater percentage of their calorie intake from snacks.
  4. Serve More Fresh Fruit & Vegetables
    1. Many U.S. school children are consuming more calories daily than needed, as well as choosing foods and snacks that are low in nutrients. In order to achieve normal growth and development of children and to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases, nutrient recommendations must be linked to keeping calories under control. With nearly 50% of the calories of children being consumed outside the home, it is imperative that schools offer nutrient-dense foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables in order to obtain the USDA daily recommendations.
  5. Support Local Farms / Set up Farm-to-School Programs
    1. Farm-to-school programs, through which locally grown foods are served and promoted, are beneficial for a number of reasons. Fruits and vegetables sourced locally are fresher, so they taste better, resulting in kids eating more of them. The purchase of locally-grown foods supports the local economy and strengthens the local food system. Farm-to-school programs allow students to learn about, as well as appreciate, the sources of the foods they eat and to understand the importance of local agriculture. Farm-to-school programs benefit the environment by cutting down on the amount of fossil fuels used to transport food from the farm to the consumer.
  6. Offer Vegetarian Options Daily
    1. As the quality of mass produced animal protein sources comes under scrutiny based on the amount of residual antibiotics, hormones, steroids and saturated fat content, vegetarian meals are wholesome options to be incorporated into school lunch on a rotating basis. Institutional foods, as purchased by many schools, may not always provide the most wholesome sources of animal protein. Vegetarian meals, not only wholesome and nutritious, also tend to be more economical, assisting the food budget.
  7. Serve More Whole Grains & Beans
    1. The body needs carbohydrates mainly for energy. The best sources of carbohydrates are whole grains because the body cannot digest them as quickly as highly processed carbohydrates. This keeps blood sugar and insulin levels from rising, then falling, too quickly. Better control of blood sugar and insulin can keep hunger at bay and may prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Eating whole grains may also make kids feel more satisfied for a longer period of time.
  8. Discontinue Use of Poor Quality Oils
    1. Partially hydrogenated oils used for frying and food preparation, which are usually industrially processed oils such as soy, corn, cottonseed and canola, are derived from genetically modified food sources and extrapolated into oil using high heat and chemical processes, thus denaturing the oil and making it difficult to be utilized properly by the body. This phenomenon is linked to many diseases.
  9. Give Adequate Time for Students to Eat Lunch
    1. Students need adequate time to eat to meet their nutritional needs, which is essential for optimal student health and performance. Students who aren't rushed can relax, make healthier food choices, and enjoy their food more. Food served but not eaten does not contribute to nutritional health. Allowing enough time for students to eat can also prevent transient hunger that hinders attention and learning.
  10. Decrease Refined Carbohydrate Foods & Snacks
    1. Highly refined carbohydrates are rapidly absorbed into the body, much like ingesting simple sugars, resulting in a spike in glucose levels. This causes individuals to still feel hungry or to become hungrier sooner, only to consume even more food. This repetitive pattern is believed to contribute to the obesity epidemic. It also increases the risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.


Anonymous said...

fresh fruits and veggies are the way to go for kids treats!

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