April 2013 | Hotlunch.com | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 5, Issue 4]

Eating More Fruit

Most kids need to eat more fruits and vegetables, and maybe you’ve noticed your students aren’t eating as much fruit as you’d hope. One thing to consider is the presentation. Fruit that’s bite-sized and ready to eat may be more appetizing than a whole fruit that’s just sitting there.

Making Fruit Easier to Eat Increases Sales and Consumption in School Cafeterias

This article from Science Daily discusses some ways to make fruits more appealing to kids. The kids will eat more fruits – that’s good for them and good for the school.  Cornell University has a number of researchers who study how food presentation and even the type of glassware an size of our plates affect eating habits.

Things you can do at school:
  • Purchase a fruit slicer – kids love bite-sized fruit.
  • Teachers can talk to kids about why they need to eat more fruits (and vegetables too).
  • Spend some time in foods classes talking about how presentation of a meal affects how much we eat.
Eat Like a Grizzly?

We’re not the only creatures wandering around this planet with growling stomachs. There are species of all kinds, shapes and sizes; and while they may not eat exactly the same way that we humans do, maybe there’s something we can learn from them.

Grizzly Bears May Have Diet Lessons That Can Be Helpful for Humans

According to this article from the Washington Post, some medical doctors and veterinarians are working close together to look at the health and eating patterns of humans and non-humans.  The article details a case of obese grizzlies – they became obese after eating processed foods and other foods that just aren’t good for grizzlies. Sound familiar?

Tips for teachers:
  • Have students compare diets of different types of animals.
  • Talk about pets – how many families have obese pets and pets with eating problems?
  • Discuss how humans can learn things by studying other animals.
Sneaky Snacks

Okay, so we know it’s fun to bring snacks to school for birthdays and other holiday parties – and maybe that’s okay, as long as we can avoid having too many high-calorie snacks in school vending machines and on the lunch lines.

Parents, Food Service Directors Debate Snacks Sneaking into Kids’ Diets at School

Here’s another article from the Washington Post discussing sneaky snacks in our schools. The USDA is contemplating new standards for regulating availability of school snacks. Some snacks can be good (like the sliced fruit from the earlier article) or whole grain crackers and such, but too many treats are high-calorie fun foods. Maybe they need to stay out of the schools.

In Your School:
  • Evaluation time: how available are sugary and high-fat snacks in your school?
  • Urge students to choose healthier snacks – at school and at home.
  • Offer healthier snacks like breakfast bars, fruits and veggies instead of ice cream, popsicles and chips.
Food Packaging and Your Brain

The size and shapes of packaging really influence our brains, and the companies that manufacture foods know all about this. Some foods, like candies, can sell better in bite-sized packaging, while other foods sell better when they’re in larger bags, buckets and boxes.

The Psychology of Small Packages

This article from The Wall Street Journal looks at how packaging makes you want to eat more or eat less. There’s more information from the researchers at Cornell – did you know you’ll eat more popcorn from a large movie-theater type bucket (even if it’s old and stale), but you might be more likely to choose a small package of chips if you’re taking them with you in the car.  Learn more about the psychology of packaging and see how it affects your eating behavior.
Spinach and Other Greens

Green and colorful vegetables are so good for you because they’re loaded with vitamins, beneficial phytochemicals and high in fiber.  One way to get more greens into your diet is to choose more salads. You can also serve greens as a side dish. Spinach is well-known, but there are other greens too.
Practical Nutrition: Eat Your Spinach, But Don’t Miss Four Other Greens

This article from the Richmond, Virginia Times Dispatch introduces readers to four greens that may help your heart and are low in calories. Kale, collards, turnip greens and mustard greens are all members of the cruciferous family of vegetables (like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower). You can find these fresh greens in your local grocery store – they’re all easy to prepare, just sauté in a little olive oil and season them to your taste.
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Is Pasta Bad for Me?

Pasta isn't a bad food, although you may need to watch your portion sizes. Pasta, like bread, bagels and other grain products, is energy-dense. A one-cup serving of spaghetti has 220 calories, mostly from complex carbohydrates. It belongs to the grain food group, and according to the Unites States Department of Agriculture's ChooseMyPlate.gov, about one-quarter of any meal should contain grains like pasta, rice, cornmeal or oatmeal. That's about right, because you want to leave plenty of room for colorful fruits and vegetables, and a healthy source of protein.

What About All Those Carbs?
Pasta isn't bad just because it's high in carbs. Your body needs carbohydrates for energy, especially if you're an active person. A balanced diet should have about half your calories coming from carbohydrates. If you're following a strict low-carb diet, it's tough to fit much pasta into your diet; it's great for a balanced diet and fits easily into a low-fat diet (as long as you keep the sauces and other toppings light).

Doesn't Pasta Have Gluten?
Regular pasta is made from wheat so it has gluten. That's a problem for people with celiac disease, wheat allergies or intolerances; but for the rest of us, there's no need to follow a gluten-free diet. Some fad diets are based partly on avoiding gluten, but they're not based on credible scientific research.

Gluten-free pasta made from corn or rice is still high in carbohydrates and has about the same number of calories as wheat pasta. I find that corn pasta is a little difficult to prepare properly, but rice pasta is fairly easy to cook (takes a little longer than wheat pasta) and can be used in almost any dish that calls for pasta.

Healthier Pasta Meals
A serving of pasta itself is fairly innocent, but it can be turned bad by what's served on and around it. Linguine with topped with fresh vegetables in a light sauce is healthful, but I can't say the same for most canned and boxed pasta meals that are high in sodium and fat. Most brands of macaroni and cheese are high in fat and calories too.

Whole Wheat Pasta
Most pasta is made from refined grains that have had the husks removed, which gives it a lighter flavor and texture, but reduces the fiber content. Whole wheat pasta has more fiber than regular pasta. It also has a stronger flavor and different texture -- some people like it right away, while others need to eat whole grain pasta a few times before acquiring a taste for it. I think it helps to use robust sauces with lots of flavor (but stick with tomato based sauces - creamy and cheesy sauces are higher in calories).
Here are a few recipes made with whole wheat pasta:

More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Smartphone Way to Lose Weight

Researchers Determine Beneficial Compounds in Whole-grain Rice Varieties

Most Kids’ Meals Still Far From Healthful, Group Warns

Do Teens Who Sleep In Stay Slimmer?

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 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Association of Health Care 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.