April 2012 | Hotlunch.com | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 4, Issue 4]

64 calories

That’s the average number of calories some expert say need to be reduced every day to fight childhood obesity. Sixty-four calories isn’t much, really. And it’s an average – kind of a goal that can be used by schools for meal planning.

Eliminating 64 Calories Per Day On Average Would Allow the US Childhood Obesity Prevention Goals to Be Met

This article looks at the number of calories needed to end childhood obesity. It can be achieved by decreasing caloric intake by eating lower calorie foods or by increasing physical activities every day, or better yet, by a combination of both.

Thinking about in school:
  • Have kids investigate a typical daily menu and see where those calories can be cut.
  • Teach kids about calories what they mean and how many we need every day.
  • Design posters in art class and post them around the school to remind kids about making healthier choices before, during, and after school.
Farm to School

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that USDA will be investing in farm to school programs nationwide to help eligible schools improve the health and wellbeing of their students and connect with local agricultural producers..

USDA announces new farm to school program to improve the health and nutrition of kids receiving school meals

The Farm to School Grant Program is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which authorized the USDA to implement the farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. The new investments will help schools buy food from local producers. Farm to school initiatives can also include agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes.


Cinnamon Challenge

Teens may be tempted to play the Cinnamon Challenge game.  It sounds harmless enough, but it can be dangerous. Cinamon isn’t poisonous but it can cause some bad reactions in kids and even possibly lead to pneumonia.

Teens' 'cinnamon challenge': Dangerous, not innocent

This article looks at the game where kids are dared to swallow a tablespoon of cinnamon powder without dinking any liquid. The powder dries the throat and mouth and causes kids to cough, gag and even vomit. How did kids learn about this game? From internet videos.  Is it really something to worry about? Maybe – the American Association of Poison Control Centers have issued a safety warning because the Cinnamon Challenge can have be harmful.
Food Labeling May Not Be Working

Packaged foods all have Nutrition Facts labels on them, as well as a list of ingredients. This information is there to help you watch calories and nutrition intake. But two things have to happen for this to work. We have to read the labels and then we have to actually use that information.

Research casts doubt on benefit of nutritional labeling

This article describes a recent study in Canada that examined subject’s knowledge of food, and what food labels mean. They found that Americans knew a lot about the fat and calorie content of foods, compared to the French who tend to ignore that information. The sad part is that Americans don’t act upon that knowledge.

Help your students:
  • Talk about carbohydrates and sugars – we need some, but too much leads to weight gain.
  • Teach students how to read Nutrition Facts labels.
  • Help students choose snacks and foods that are lower in added sugars.
  • Show some examples – a typical can of soda has about 40 grams of sugar – use a scale to measure out that much sugar to see just exactly how much sugar that is.
  • Teach students how to read Nutrition Facts labels.
  • Have kids plan healthy balanced meals based on food label information.
  • Kids can do reports on one of the ingredient found on an ingredient list: what it is, how it’s made, what it does in the food and description of any safety issues.
The Tape Measure and Heart Risk

The size of the waist line is a good indicator of heart disease risk in adults and according to a professor of medicine at the University of California, it’s also good for predicting heart disease risk in teens too.

Use waistline to predict teens' heart risk

This article describes how to use the waist to height measurement to determine heart disease risk.  Turns out obese kids with the largest waistlines also tend to have high cholesterol, which is an indicator of increased heart disease risk.

Be heart healthy at school:
  • Help kids increase physical activity at home and in school.
  • Discuss how a healthy lifestyle is heart healthy.
  • Talk about foods that are good for the cardiovascular system, such as olive oil, nuts and fruits and vegetables.
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Choosing Breakfast Cereals

Next time you go into the grocery store, take a look at all the different types of breakfast cereals. What a colorful array of boxes. Some are obviously aimed at kids and others have a more serious look - attempting to appeal to adults. Not sure how to navigate the cereal aisle? I can help:

Look for the Nutrition Facts label on the side or back of the package. This is where you'll find all the information you need to know. You're going to look at sugar, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and the ingredients list.

Choose a breakfast cereal that has  five grams of sugar or less per serving, and fresh fruit to your cereal, or just a spoonful of sugar. Avoid cereals with lots of sugar. Some sugary cereals have 10 grams of sugar (about three teaspoons), or more, in one serving, which is usually 3/4 to one cup. Think about how much cereal you really eat. Many people eat two or three servings at a time.

Choose a cereal that is high in fiber -- at least three grams per serving. You'll find the most fiber in high-fiber cereals such as shredded wheat, oat cereals, puffed wheat and bran cereals. Usually the more sugar a cereal has, the less fiber it has per serving. The sugary cereals typically have about one gram per serving.

Look for cereals that are fortified with vitamins and minerals. If you eat a healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy protein sources and non- or low-fat dairy products, you probably don't have to worry about getting enough vitamins and minerals. If your diet isn't so good, or you're buying cereal for a child who is a picky eater, getting those extra vitamins and minerals is a good idea. The amounts of fortified nutrients vary among cereals, but look for cereals with added calcium, vitamin D, folic acid and vitamin C.

Look over the ingredients list. You want to see the words "whole grain" or "whole wheat" listed as the first ingredient. You may also wish to avoid cereals that contain artificial flavoring and colorings.

More Tips
  • Look past the colorful packaging to find the Nutrition Facts label.
  • Don't shop when you're hungry so you aren't as tempted by the sweet-as-candy cereals.
  • Keep your breakfast healthy.
  • Add non-fat milk, soy beverage or rice beverage to your cereal.
  • Add extra fiber to your healthy breakfast cereal with fresh sliced fruits or berries.
More About School Lunches and Healthy Kids

Farms on wheels brings agriculture to schools

Reliance on BMI understates the true obesity crisis, experts say

For many girls, slimming down doesn't help self-esteem

Ammonia used in many foods, not just "pink slime"

About Shereen Jegtvig

Shereen Jegtvig is a health and nutrition writer with two decades of experience counseling people on nutrition and diet. She has a master’s degree in human nutrition and is a member of the American Dietetic Association and the Association of Health Car Journalists.   Shereen writes about nutrition for the large website About.com (http://nutrition.about.com), is co-author of Superfoods for Dummies (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470445394.html) and Clinical Anatomy for Dummies (http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118116437.html). She also teaches Evidence Based Nutrition to nutrition graduate students and fundamentals of nutrition to undergrads at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.