April 2015 | Hotlunch.com | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 7, Issue 4]

Packaged Foods High in Salt

A large number of processed and packaged foods are either flavored with salt or preserved with salt. In fact, about half of the foods we buy at the grocery store contain too much sodium.

More than half the packaged food you buy in grocery stores has too much salt

This news story from the Washington Post looks at a CDC study that examined the salt content of foods regularly processed in grocery stores. And, no surprise, there’s too much salt in the packaged foods we buy.

So what qualifies as too much? According to the FDA, ‘healthy’ snacks should have no more than 480 milligrams of sodium per serving and pizza, pasta dishes, and sandwiches must have less than 600 milligrams per serving.
Considering Sodium and Potassium

So we know too much sodium isn’t good – it’s associated with high blood pressure in a large number of people. So what about potassium? That’s one mineral that most people could need to get a little (or a lot) more.

Among other things, potassium ‘balances’ sodium to help keep your blood pressure regulated. We have guidelines for both of the nutrients, the problem is, they’re too hard to reach with our current dietary practices.

Are current dietary guidelines for sodium and potassium reasonable?

This news story published by Science Daily describes a study designed to see how many people in the US, Mexico, France and The UK meet dietary guidelines for sodium and potassium as set forth by the World Health Organization.

The results aren’t good – on average we eat way too much sodium and not enough potassium.

What to do at school:
  • Teach kids about sodium and potassium and what they do for the body.
  • Talk about what to avoid – salty processed foods, pizza, packaged dinners and many restaurant meals.
  • Most potassium comes from fruits and vegetables so help kids get extra servings each day.
Americans Are Dining Out More

In 1992, we spent twice as much money on groceries as we did when we dined in restaurants. While spending for both dining out and grocery shopping have increased, the gap has been narrowing. And now, for the first time, we’re spending more money at restaurants.

Americans' spending on dining out just overtook grocery sales for the first time ever

This news story from Bloomberg Business tells us that adults from 25 to 44 years of age are driving this trend of dining out. The favorites? Fast food, deli food, pizza shops and ethnic restaurants.

What to do at school:
  • Make sure kids know how to read menus so they can make the healthiest choices.
  • Focus on easy-to-make meals in foods classes.
  • As a class project, have kids compare the cost of eating in restaurants for a week compared to buying groceries for similar meals.
Advertising Energy Drinks to Teens

Energy drinks are defined as beverages that contain caffeine and at least one other ingredient that’s supposed to improve energy – like taurine.  They’re packaged in colorful cans, and it’s obvious they’re aimed at teens and young adults. And it looks like TV ads for energy drinks are also aimed at teens.

Energy drink TV adverts are placed on channels that appeal to teens: US study

This story from Food Navigator describes a study that says channels that run the most commercials for energy drinks tend to air programs related to music, sports and extreme sports.

It’s no secret that teens like energy drinks, but we’re not sure what the long-term effects of drinking these revved up drinks will be.  The beverage manufacturers that make this stuff are supposed to regulate how they advertise to kids. But it doesn’t look like they’re trying too hard.

What to do at school:

  • Talk about the ingredients in energy drinks – there’s nothing essential, just extra caffeine and plenty of sugar.
  • Talk about how advertising works – just because the ad appeals to you or your friends doesn’t mean the product is good for you.
  • What are better alternatives? Coffee? Tea? Water?
Are Popular Diets Safe?

Popular diets, such as high-protein, low-carb, Paleo or low-fat diets, come and go. They all claim to be safe and effective. They often are successful at first because given up major nutrients like fats or carbs results in giving up most high-calorie foods.

But is it okay to give up major nutrients or to follow diets that are essentially unbalanced? What can happen to our health when we follow the latest diet?

Popular diets may carry risks that are unexpected and not worth taking

This news story from the Washington Post digs into potential health risks for the major popular diets. According to this story, some experts say following a high-protein diet might overwork your kidneys or put your brain function at risk. And high protein diets often load up on red meat that’s been associated with heart disease.

Very low-fat diets have their problems too. Sure, the average person’s diet is too high in fat, but going way down to a super-low fat diet leaves you at risk for deficiencies of healthy fats.

Healthier Vending Machines

Vending machines are convenient – you insert coins or a dollar bill or two and pick out a ready-to-eat snack. Of course, most vending machines are loaded with high-calorie, high-fat, high-sugar, and high-sodium stuff. That’s bad – when we have so many people who are overweight and obese, having these types of machines everywhere isn’t helping. Unless you stock them with healthier fare.

Entrepreneurs send healthier snacks into schools, work

This story from USA Today highlights a company in South Carolina that decided to load vending machines with healthier snacks – like baked chips, whole grain cookies and water.

No, they’re not as good as apples and oranges, but they’re much better than greasy chips and sugary sodas. Of course, the question is – will people eat the healthier stuff? Turns out the answer is a big ‘yes!’

About HotLunch.com

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Fat-shaming Isn't Helpful

I know that sometimes parents and other family members believe that presenting obesity in a bad light will help their overweight kids become motivated to lose weight. But it doesn’t work -- it has the opposite effect because it can lower self-esteem.

That’s on the individual level. Interestingly, it probably works the same way on a public health level.

Stigmatizing the obese may worsen consumption habits, say researchers

This story from Food Navigator describes a study that looked at how obesity is portrayed in a negative manner in public health campaigns.  It turns out that stigmatizing obese people can actually ruin people’s weight loss efforts.

The news story also talks about calorie counting and color-coded labeling systems that are meant to encourage better eating habits. They may not work either.  So what does work? According to one expert, the way to help people reach a healthy weight is to give them reasons for eating nutritious foods. Knowledge is power.
More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Eating out 'raises risk for high blood pressure'

Can you eat healthy at the ballpark?

Field-to-Fork inspires students to eat healthy

New $1B global fund targets child nutrition

About Shereen Lehman

Shereen Lehman 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.