April 2014 | Hotlunch.com | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 6, Issue 4]

Restaurants in Poor Neighborhoods Serve Fewer Healthy Choices

A new study takes a look at the foods served by restaurants in poor neighborhoods and compares them to the restaurant offerings found in more affluent areas. Sadly, it’s harder to get healthy foods in impoverished areas.

Restaurants in poor areas push unhealthy foods, study finds

This news story from the Healthday discusses the findings from the new study that was published in American Journal of Health Behavior.

The scientists found that fast food restaurants in the Kansas City area that offer cheap foods without good nutritional value are more common in poorer neighborhoods, while better restaurants populate the wealthier neighborhoods. In fact, they said it’s easy to choose poor nutrition 75 percent of the time in the poor areas.

Things to do at school:

  • Explain why fast foods are generally bad for your health.
  • Have students research the nutritional value of foods at various restaurants.
  • Have your students determine how to order a reasonably healthy meal at a lower price.
Banning Chocolate Milk Not Successful

Chocolate milk is thought by some people to be a good way to get kids to drink milk so they get the calcium they need. But other people think that chocolate milk is bad because it contains extra calories from sugar.

So, a recent study examined a chocolate milk ban. Turns out the kids drank less low-fat milk and wasted more.

School bans on chocolate milk may backfire

Here's another news story from HealthDay. Turns out that bans on chocolate milk in 11 Oregon elementary schools were linked to a decrease in the amount of fat-free white milk students drank, according to a study by Cornell University researchers.

What to do in school:

  • Talk about why milk is important for calcium
  • Place non-fat milk more prominently, but keep the chocolate milk
  • Offer non-dairy milk alternatives
Food Insecurity and College Students

Going to college can get expensive – really expensive – and kids who have to live on a budget might have a tough time studying, especially when they have to work extra hours just to eat.

More college students battle hunger as education and living costs rise

This news story from the Washington Post describes a new scene – food insecurity among college students. We already know tuition costs are going through the roof, but so’s the cost of living.

What to do in school:

  • Seniors will be moving on to college – talk about living expenses
  • Talk about this study to introduce the importance of food safety.
  • Have kids come up with other accepted notions about food and then go on an Internet search to find out what’s known about it.
Better Diet Lowers Risk of Benign Breast Disease in Young Women

Girls who eat more fruits and vegetables are less likely to be diagnosed with benign breast disease, possibly due to the protective affects of carotenoids – the vitamin A-like substances found in colorful veggies.

For teen girls, fruits and veggies linked to lower risk of breast condition

This news story from the Chicago Tribune describes the study. It’s potentially good news, but it’s important to take other lifestyle habits into consideration. I mean, kids and adults who eat lots of fruits and vegetables tend to have several other beneficial health habits.

Maybe future research will help know how much of an impact the veggies have on the risk for benign breast disease. Still, it’s always a good thing to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Nutrition Facts at Restaurants - a Good Thing

Various cities have required nutrition and calorie information to be posted on restaurant menus for a while now – and the Affordable Care Act makes it a requirement for all chain restaurants that have more than 20 locations.

 A new study from Penn State suggests that people may prefer to eat at places that have the information on the menu.

Restaurants that offer nutrition facts and healthful foods more popular

This news story from Medical News Today describes the study findings that were published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management.

The researchers presented different scenarios to study participants. The scenarios that included restaurants that presented nutrition information and served healthful food options proved to be more popular with the participants.

What to do in foods class:

  • Bring in some menus and find the healthiest foods on the menus.
  • Have kids design their own healthy menus with calorie information.
  • Talk about why healthy foods – even at restaurants – are important for health.
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Eating Clean!

There’s no one specific definition for eating a clean diet, but it’s mostly about avoiding refined foods and things that are heavily processed, and avoiding unhealthy foods that contain extra fats, excess sodium and added sugars.

The rules to eating a clean diet are simple – stick with foods closest to their natural state. Avoid foods with preservatives and colorings. Drink plenty of water, but avoid alcohol and sugary beverages.

Dietary fat, sodium and sugars should only be found in their natural states – avoid foods that use them as added ingredients.  And avoid artificial trans fats altogether.

Avoid refined grains like bread, pasta and cereal made from white flour, but feel free to add whole-grain pasta, bread and cereal. Keep an eye on food labels– you want to buy 100-percent whole grain products, not foods ‘made with whole grains,’ that also contain refined flour.

What to Eat and What Not to Eat

Clean eating means no more cans of soup, no more candy bars and no more white bread and processed lunchmeats. No bacon, ham, fried chicken, fish stix, or French fries. A fast food burger is out, and so are the chocolate shake and onion rings. 

No chocolate milk, baked beans, ice cream, frozen dinners, pizzas, chips, dips, soda and fruit-flavored beverages. Most yogurt is not allowed, and neither are cookies, pies, and cakes.

Most canned goods are not allowed because they often contain added sugars, fats or sodium. Meals that come in boxes or bags are not allowed either.

But here’s what you can eat:

All fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and whole grain products made without preservatives are allowed on a clean eating diet.

Fresh meat, poultry, fish and seafood are fine, as long as you keep them simple – no heavy breading, sauces or creams.

Dairy products are fine as long as they don't contain extra flavorings.

Cooking methods count in a clean eating plan, too. Baking, broiling, roasting and steaming are best. Avoid dishes that must be fried. No added sugars, fats or seasoning salts. Use fresh herbs and spices to flavor your meals.

Whether you cut out all processed and junk foods or not, it's still important to eat a balanced diet with low-fat calcium sources, a small amount of healthy omega-3 and monounsaturated fats and lean protein sources, similar to what's described at ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Shopping has to Change
Grocery shopping is needs to be a little different in order to eat clean. Especially if you're used to buying many foods that are packaged, but with some practice, you'll get used to it.

Check the food label. If it contains ingredients you can't pronounce or have never heard of, then it's best to put the product back on the shelf and find something made with simple ingredients.

Organic foods are often cleaner than regular foods. You still need to read the labels to avoid excess fats and refined grains, but organic foods are usually good choices.


What About Restaurant Dining?
Eating at any restaurant is going to be rough, unless you find a place that specializing in fresh foods and local fare. Even then - don't be afraid to ask questions about how each dish is prepared.

The best bet is to order a salad and ask for oil and vinegar served on the side. Add a whole grain roll. The main course may be more difficult, but if nothing on the menu looks right, ask if you can have your fish, chicken or meat baked, broiled or grilled and served with a baked potato or green vegetables. It's okay to add a little butter or sour cream to your potato, but hold the gravy, unless it's made from scratch.

More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Solutions sought to reduce food waste at schools

Trendy Cleanses for Kids Alarm Doctors

Healthy eating is a family affair

Influence of TV on snacking habits, cardiovascular risk in middle schoolers

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 at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.