It’s fitting for the timing of this announcement, that September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Effective last Thursday, New York City's Board of Health approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on big-size sugary beverages.
New York City will restrict sales of sugary soft drinks sold in the form of bottled drinks and fountain beverages to no more than 16 ounces a cup in restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums, arenas and street carts. The measure goes into effect March 12th.
In a 2007 study, children ages 3 to 9 who consumed fruit drinks with added artificial colors and/or sodium benzoate for a week, showed increases in hyperactivity. There have also been a multitude of other studies linking artificial colorings and preservatives to ADD/ADDHD (attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity disorder).
These food additives are found in breakfast cereals, cakes, candies, pork sausage, gelatin desserts, soft drinks, juices, ice cream, cheese, butter, pasta and even Maraschino cherries. Check out the studyhere!
I often wonder about this: if fad diets really worked, would this country still have the obesity issues it currently has? Think it is time to take a harder look.
How Much Does a Pound of Fat Weigh?
Let’s begin by examining the caloric content of a pound of fat—it’s 3,500 calories. It’s not just the number that matters but also what those calories contain and the benefits your body can derive from eating that food item. Is a 350 calorie “protein bar” equivalent to a grilled chicken salad with vegetables and balsamic vinaigrette with the same number of calories? Not even close. One is manufactured in a factory with unhealthy sweeteners, binding agents and processed grains which add unnecessary fats and sugars. The other could be hormone and antibiotic free chicken with organic greens and tomatoes and cucumbers with olive oil and vinegar—loaded with lean protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fat. (in moderation, olive oil has been shown to be a contributor to lowering cholesterol).
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sometimes called corn sugar (this is actually just a marketing ploy by the HFCS manufacturers to trick people), has become a popular ingredient in sodas, fruit-flavored drinks, baked and packaged goods. Given how ubiquitous HFCS is, some people are concerned about possible adverse health effects. I'm sure you have already read and heard about the problems associated with sugar or HFCS sweetened products. The excess empty calories, blood sugar spike and resulting insulin surge this creates in your body may not only promote fat gain, but may also stimulate your appetite, further increasing your chances for developing chronic diseases.
For years, researchers have linked a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, gout and weight gain to increased sugar consumption. Ironically, much of the addition of added sugar in the food and beverages we consume can be linked back to the non-fat diet craze of the 1990’s. Manufacturers took out the fat, but had to replace the taste, and did so by adding sweeteners. Subsequently, the rates of obesity and chronic-related disease have INCREASED.
The average American consumes 22 to 28 teaspoons of added sugars a day – mostly from HFCS and ordinary table sugar (sucrose). That is 350 to 440 empty calories that few of us can afford. The American Heart Association recommends that American women should consume no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar from any source, and that most American men should consume no more than 150 calories a day from added sugar, with less being better. That's about 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 for men. (When you consider that a 12 ounce can of soda contains about 170 calories/7 teaspoons of sugar, it makes you realize how quickly it can add up). To figure this out on your own, use the “Nutrition Facts” panel. For the number of calories from sugar, multiply the grams of sugar on the label by 4. To figure out the number of teaspoons of sugar in a product, divide the grams of sugar by 4.
Have you heard the term "pink slime" in the press lately? It's getting a lot of attention-from the USDA, to the beef industry to schools providing meals to children. We want to feature this topic in this week's blog to highlight our educational mission. We are committed to helping our Red Rabbit followers and school partners gain a better understanding of where our food comes from, and how to make informed choices about the foods we buy and consume, both as a company and as individuals. In this case, both sides of the issue are passionate and adamant about their positions...but, we'll let you decide...
The additive, known in the industry as "lean finely textured beef", is made from scraps remaining after cattle are butchered into cuts such as steaks and roasts. Processors remove the fat from trimmings and as some of these scraps are very close to the bone, organs or other "non-commercially viable parts", they are often treated with ammonium hydroxide (a.k.a., ammonia) to remove the possibility of bacteria, E Coli, salmonella, etc. The product is then mixed with ground beef, making it leaner, according to the industry, but making it more toxic according to others.
It's time to start talking about solutions, not only the problems. I believe we can have an impact on the issues facing our society regarding healthy food in schools and the obesity epidemic if we focus on both ends of the spectrum—the bottom-up local grass roots level and the top down regulatory and government level.
From the top:
We live in a country where USDA nutrition standards consider (using only a few examples here) pizza and French fries as vegetables—which means they can be served to our school-aged children every day of the week. If that is the standard that we set; if the bar is set at that low a level, then kids are far from safe. No one can re-invent the system overnight, but parents and educators need to step up and say, “this is not helping our children and it must change.”
Here is another awful oversight in our current system: refined foods. None of the school nutrition standards in place today address those at all. Until Congress changes the guidelines, large companies will not change what they serve. We all know pesticides, chemicals and preservatives are horrifically bad for us—as kids and adults. Yet, we treat all fruits and vegetables the same. Do you think peaches that were grown on a farm 50 miles away and picked yesterday have the same nutritional value as those that were picked 6 months ago, shipped half way around the world, dumped into a sugary syrup (most likely high fructose corn syrup) and canned? Take a look at the typical school lunch fare and you will find more of the latter than the former.
Studies have shown that food dyes and other additives can increase hyperactivity and cause other behavioral problems; children who ate fast food three or more times per week performed lower on standardized tests in reading and math. Today, Red Rabbit is successfully bringing healthy meals to thousands of school children across the Greater New York Area every day, with great results.
Though I think the Let's Move Campaign is a terrific first attempt at setting a good example, we need to go further and deeper into the system to make wellness, fitness and healthy food options something all kids—of all socioeconomic backgrounds—have access to.