August 2012 | | 1-888-376-7136

[Volume 4, Issue 5]

Back To School: Back To School Lunch

The new nutrition standards are in place and many schools are giving their lunches a makeover. The standards call for more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains and less sodium. Some schools have been improving their fare for a number of years, but others have some catching up to do.

Study: Food can 'reset' disturbed sleeping cycles

Here’s a story about what schools across the country are doing to iprove their hot lunches. Some more interesting tips include whole-grain crusts on pizza and black-bean vegetarian food wraps. Will kids like the new healthier foods? I hope so!

What you can do for your students:

  • Set up focus groups with kids to see what they like. Healthy food doesn’t do any good if your students toss it in the garbage.
  • Soup or salads can add good nutrition to any meal.
  • Choose beans as a protein source. Dry beans are an inexpensive alternative to meat and they’re loaded with fiber and good nutrition.
Think Yourself Thin Or Find Your Way To Fat?

How many times have you heard a teen girl insist she’s overweight when she isn’t? What can happen when a teen thinks this way? Could the thought pattern lead to weight gain later in life?

Fat thoughts can make you fat, study says

An interesting study from Norway suggests thinking your fat can lead to gaining weight. The study looked at teens and their perceptions of their own bodies. They found that 22% of normal weight girls misidentified themselves as overweight, and about 9% of boys did the same.  The researchers suggest the possibility that teens who think they’re fat might resort to behaviors that may actually lead to obesity.

I guess this is possible – and there’s the other side of the coin where healthy weight teens who think they’re overweight might develop eating disorders and lose too much weight. Either way, it’s important for girls (and boys) to develop a healthy perception of their bodies. Here’s how you can help:
  • Teach kids about objective tools like Body Mass Index and body fat percentages rather than relying on their own subjective thoughts about weight.
  • Discuss how the media portrays women – is it realistic? Why do women’s magazines have an article on weight loss on one page and a recipe for a decadent dessert on the next?
  • Show students how images of models are digitally altered to look perfect. It’s not realistic to compare themselves to these images.
Not Enough Iron Or Too Much

Iron is a dietary mineral you need so your red blood cells can carry oxygen to all the parts of your body. You can get iron from most meat and poultry, from iron-rich plant like spinach, or you can take iron supplements. You want to be sure to not go overboard on the iron.

A host of ills when iron’s out of balance

This article talks about iron and who needs it, mostly women who are menstruating or pregnant, vegans and children who are exclusively breast-fed. I t also talks about getting too much iron, which is more of a problem for older people. In fact, the article suggests getting too much iron may be more common in the elderly than iron deficiency.  Iron is important, but be sure to speak to your doctor before taking iron supplements no matter what your age.
Choosing Healthier Restaurants

Do you enjoy restaurant dining? Do you choose restaurants because they serve foods you love, they’re in your price-range, or because they serve healthy foods? According to the latest research, most of us don’t care about healthier menus.

Most don’t make ‘healthy menu’ a priority

This article discusses some new research on consumer behavior and choosing restaurants. Turns out most consumers don’t put a priority on healthy menus. About 31 percent of Millennials, or those born between 1982 to 2000 consider healthfulness when choosing a restaurant, but only 21 percent of Generation X-ers, and sadly, only 18 percent of Baby-boomers, think about healthy foods when choosing a place to dine.  What makes this really interesting (and maybe a little hopeful) is that Millennials place the most emphasis on healthy eating even though they have the lowest incomes.

Talk about restaurants in school:

  • Bring some sample menus to class and have kids pick out the healthiest menu.
  • Teach kids how to make the healthiest choices, even at fast food places.
  • Talk about portion size vs. serving size – most restaurants serve way more food than we need for one meal.
Keeping Soda Out of Schools

The School Beverage Guidelines was a pledge made in 2004. The point was to keep sugary sodas out of schools. Has it worked? Looks like it – most kids are having a tougher time finding sweetened beverages at school.

Beverage industry keeps pledge on sodas in schools, study says

This article in the L.A. Times reviews the School Beverage Guidelines that were signed in 2004. Although the voluntary guidelines has cost beverage manufacturers a lot of money, it looks like they’ve followed through with their promises. In fact, since 2006, the availability of sugary soda in schools has been cut in half.

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Energy Density

Energy density is the amount of energy (as represented by the number of calories) in a certain weight of food. Energy-dense foods have a lot of calories per serving size, while foods with low energy density have fewer calories for the same weight. An example of food with high energy density is ice cream because all those calories from the sugar and fat fit into a small serving size. What's a food with a low energy density? Spinach. There's only a few calories in a whole plateful of raw spinach leaves.

Energy density is determined by the macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates), fiber and amount of water. Fiber and water have zero calories so the more fiber or water, the lower the energy density. Protein and carbohydrates each have four calories per gram and fat has about nine calories per gram, so typically food that is high in fat is also high in calories, but carbs and protein calories can add up quickly too.

Foods with low energy density include high-fiber green and colorful vegetables. Watery foods like whole fruits tend to be less energy dense as well. Fruits and vegetables are also nutrient-dense, which means they have a lot of nutrients per serving size.

Energy-dense foods include sweets, deep-fried foods, French fries, pasta, starchy vegetables, heavy sauces, cheese, nuts and seeds. Not all energy dense foods are bad for you (like nuts, seeds and starchy vegetables) - but you need to watch your portion size when you eat them.

Some foods, like soups and beverages, can be either high or low in energy density. Broth-based soups with vegetables are low in energy dense while creamed soups are more energy dense. Non-fat milk is less energy dense than regular milk and diet soda is less energy dense than a sugary soft drink.

Energy Density and Weight Management
Weight management is ultimately about watching how many calories you take in verses how many calories you burn. Understanding energy density can help you. When you fill up on foods that have a low energy density, you'll feel satisfied while you take in fewer calories. Of course, the opposite is true too. If you eat mostly high energy density foods, you'll need a larger volume of food to fill you up, and as a result, you'll take in more calories. That's not good if you want to lose weight, although it may be helpful if you're trying to gain weight. If you are trying to gain weight, be sure to choose energy dense foods that are still nutritious like avocados, nuts, and seeds rather than high calorie nutrient-poor junk foods.

More About School Lunches, Nutrition and Healthy Kids

Study: Food can 'reset' disturbed sleeping cycles

U.S. kids downing more diet drinks,0,5708478.story

Schools get creative with new USDA lunch guidelines, Baylor food expert says

Refunds issued: Kids' vitamins aren't as healthy as advertised

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 (, is co-author of Superfoods for Dummies ( and Clinical Anatomy for Dummies ( She also teaches Evidence Based Nutrition to nutrition graduate students and fundamentals of nutrition to undergrads at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.