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Analysis of school lunches suggests federal nutrition standards should be maintained, or strengthened – VCU News



By Brian McNeill

The National School Lunch Program offers free or discounted lunches to more than 30 million children every day. But how nutritious are these meals, on which the students – mostly from lower-income families and predominantly ethnic minority groups – often obtain the majority of their food intake?

A new study led by researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University and the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU looked at 1,102 lunches selected and consumed by children in six Title I elementary schools that serve free meals to all students To better understand the nutritional composition of their choice and choices actually eaten.

It found that the meals the students selected met most of the federal nutritional recommendations for the majority of the children. However, based on total consumption, it was also found that fewer children met the recommendations for total calories (5%), calcium (8%), iron (11%), vitamin A (18%), vitamin C (16%). and fiber (7%).

“Based on children’s lunch, we found sub-optimal intake of several nutrients at lunch,” said lead author Elizabeth Adams, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the VCU Massey Cancer Center who works at the VCU Healthy Lifestyles Center at Richmond Children’s Hospital. “This suggests that while children are given the opportunity to ingest adequate amounts of essential nutrients, evidence-based strategies are needed to encourage children’s consumption of selected nutrient-rich meals.”

The new study comes as Congress is considering re-approving child nutrition and school meal standards for the first time since 2010, when the Healthy, Hunger Free Children Act required schools to provide more fruit, vegetables and whole grains, among other things, was signed into law.

Researchers said the results of the study support the need to maintain, if not improve, current nutritional standards from the National School Lunch Program in order to continue to provide children with access to healthy eating.

“We hope this research will influence current legislative decisions on the Nutrition Reauthorization Act,” said Melanie K. Bean, Ph.D., co-author of the study, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at VCU and Co-Director of Healthy Lifestyle Center at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, and a member of the cancer prevention and control research program at the VCU Massey Cancer Center. “Congress has an important opportunity that [National School Lunch Program] Nutrient standards that support this research and the research of others. “

In March, the Senate Agriculture, Food, and Forestry Committee held a hearing to re-approve child nutrition programs, which include the National School Lunch Program. During the pandemic, the U.S. Department of Agriculture granted school districts exemptions to certain nutritional standards to allow flexibility. Some in Congress are calling for school districts to continue to relax nutritional standards, particularly sodium and whole grain requirements, because they are too difficult to maintain.

“This study showed that these schools were able to offer meals that met most of the nutritional recommendations, which contradicts the belief that current nutritional recommendations are too difficult to meet,” said Adams. “Rather than resetting those meal standards that offer healthy meals to children, our study showed that the current nutritional guidelines should (at least) be maintained and ideally improved. For example, we would argue that there should be a limit for added sugar in the new standards. “

The researchers said they support implementation strategies that focus on increasing healthy food consumption in children selected as part of the school lunch program. And they also called for support to school districts, particularly schools with high poverty levels, to ensure they can offer meals that meet nutritional standards.

The researchers said their research supports three key insights for policy makers: prioritizing children’s nutritional health, evidence-based decisions to maintain or improve nutrient standards from the National School Lunch Program, and investing in strategies that optimize policy impact by helping schools do so to achieve healthy eating and eating standards; and to encourage children to consume healthy nutrients.

“A reduction in current nutrient standards – especially now after the dramatic increase in food insecurity due to COVID-19 – would only be detrimental to children’s health and leave them with even fewer opportunities to get essential nutrients,” said Adams.

Any changes to the National School Lunch Program would have a huge public health impact, Bean said.

“We have a real opportunity to advocate healthy meals in schools, ensure that science-based nutritional standards are set, and help schools meet those standards,” she said. “Lunch at school has been shown to be healthier on average compared to meals brought from home, and children who attend lunch – especially children from lower income families – have shown health benefits, including predicted decrease in obesity.

“Our study shows that we still have a lot of work to do to ensure that children have these healthy meals and that we must continue to build on the successes of the Healthy, Hunger Free Children Act to optimize school meals,” added she added.

“A decrease in the current nutrient standards – especially now after the dramatic increase in food insecurity due to COVID-19 – would only be detrimental to the health of the children and would offer them even fewer opportunities to obtain critical nutrients.”

Elizabeth Adams, Ph.D.

The study “Nutrient Intake During School Lunch in Title I Elementary Schools with Universal Free Meals” was published in the journal Health Education & Behavior. The paper was a secondary analysis of data collected from a study funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health to Bean.

The researchers collected the study data using “digital optical disc waste methods”. At the start of lunch, the children’s lunch trays were labeled and a picture was taken before they were eaten as the students left the food line. At the end of lunch, a picture was taken of each tray after it was consumed before any waste was disposed of. The pictures before and after consumption were compared for each child using the tablet labels.

In the laboratory, trained evaluators examined matching images and rated how much of each food and drink was left on the tray in the post-consumption image. Standardized measurements of the initial serving size were obtained for each food and drink offered, and the amount wasted for each child was subtracted from this value so that researchers could determine how much of each item was consumed. Nutritional information was gathered for each food and beverage product to identify the nutrients in all of the foods selected (from the picture before consumption) and then consumed (the difference between lunch choices and waste).

In addition to Adams and Bean, the study’s authors included Hollie A. Raynor, Ph.D., associate dean and professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of Tennessee’s College of Education, Health and Human Services; Laura M. Thornton, Ph.D., research professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Suzanne E. Mazzeo, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU.

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Whole Grains Health

The Pros and Cons of Vegetarian Diets



Many people follow a vegetarian diet to improve their health. The health benefits of a vegetarian diet are well documented. But this diet also has disadvantages. When thinking about following a vegetarian diet, consider these pros and cons to make sure it is right for you.

Pros: A vegetarian diet can lower your risk of disease.

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are at the heart of a healthy, balanced vegetarian diet. These foods provide an abundance of health-protecting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that can lower the risk of common chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and obesity.

Cons: Just because it’s vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

On the other hand, if your vegetarian diet includes a lot of highly processed foods instead of whole plant foods, the risk of some chronic diseases may even increase. There are plenty of junk foods that can fit into a vegetarian diet but are not good for you – think soda, chips, and cookies, among others. Packaged vegetarian meals and snacks can contain high amounts of added sugar, sodium, and fat and offer little to no nutritional value. Remember, as with any diet, there are ways to make a vegetarian diet healthy and turn it into a diet disaster.

Pros: You have options when it comes to going vegetarian.

You can determine the type of vegetarian eating plan that will work best for you. Some people cut meat, fish, and poultry from their diet, but eat eggs and dairy products. Others only allow eggs or only dairy products. Some occasionally contain seafood. A vegan diet eliminates all foods that come from animals, even things like honey.

Downside: You may be nutritionally deficient.

Some essential nutrients such as vitamins B12 and D, calcium and iron are not found in many plant foods. Vegetarian diets can provide these nutrients as long as food intake is properly planned, but supplementation is sometimes required. The main sources of these nutrients for vegetarians include:

  • Vitamin B12: Found in animal products such as eggs and milk (as well as meat, fish and poultry). Also found in some fortified grains, nutritional yeast, meat substitutes, and soy milk.
  • Vitamin D: In addition to eggs and fish, it is also found in fortified vegetable milk and mushrooms. Vitamin D is also obtained from exposure to the sun.
  • Calcium: In addition to dairy products, calcium is found in fortified plant-based milk, grains, juice, tofu, kale, kale, broccoli, beans, and almonds.
  • Iron: You can get iron from eggs, but also fortified grains, soy, spinach, Swiss chard, and beans. Combine iron-rich foods with vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, peppers, or tomatoes to increase your intake.

Starting a vegetarian diet can be difficult when shopping for groceries, dining out, and dining in social settings. Over time this will get easier, but will require some work. Read the product labels and familiarize yourself with common animal ingredients like casein, whey, and gelatin. In restaurants, remember that meatless meals can be made with dairy or other animal products such as beef or chicken broth. So ask questions to make a choice that is right for you. If you’re eating at home, it’s best to bring a vegetarian dish that anyone can enjoy.

If you are committed to a vegetarian lifestyle, a registered dietitian can provide helpful tips to better meet your nutritional needs.


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Whole Grains Health

Falling for weight loss myths



I’m here to warn you about 5 fat loss myths that most people fall for. This may sound like soapbox talk and we apologize, but trust us when we say this is a message that needs to be spread.

Your fat loss depends on it.

Don’t waste time on these:

Myth: Diet pills help with fat loss

It’s so tempting! The commercials make compelling claims about the power of diet pills, but don’t fall for them. The “magic pill” has yet to be discovered (it was discovered – exercise. It just doesn’t come in pill form). Diet pills are more likely to damage your health and burn your wallet than you lose weight.

Don’t take a pill – instead, burn calories with exercise.

Myth: You should starve to lose fat

Trying to lose weight by starving is not only ineffective but also dangerous. It may seem like a severe calorie restriction would result in the fastest weight loss, but your body is complex and doing so disrupts your metabolism and slows down your results.

Don’t starve yourself – instead, eat healthy, small meals throughout the day.

Myth: Lots of crunches will straighten your abs

We all want our midsection to look toned while walking on the beach, but excessive crunches aren’t the solution for tight abs. To achieve a slim look, you need to focus on burning off the layer of fat that covers your abs.

Don’t be obsessed with crunches – focus on burning fat instead.

Myth: Eat Packaged Diet Foods For Quick Results

It is amazing to see what foods are packaged as “diet” or “weight loss” aids. In most cases, these products contain refined sugars and other artificial ingredients that your body doesn’t need.

Don’t eat packaged diet foods – stick to nutritious whole foods instead.

Myth: You have to avoid carbohydrates to lose fat

Carbohydrates get a bad rap, which is unfortunate because you can (and should) eat carbohydrates while you are losing weight. The key is to stick with whole grains, oatmeal, and brown rice while avoiding processed and refined flours and sugars.

Don’t go without all carbohydrates – stick with healthy carbohydrates instead.

Fred Sassani

Now that you know what not to do to look your best this summer, it’s time to go over your beach-ready game plan.

Here’s what you need to know in 3 easy steps:

First: cut out the trash

The best way to do this is to start cleaning your kitchen. Avoid sugary, processed, and high-fat foods. Once the rubbish is cleared away, don’t buy anything more. Remember, your beach-ready abs depend on what you eat – don’t eat trash.

Second: focus on whole foods

Replace the junk food in your life with a lot of the following: cooked and raw vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, moderate amounts of seeds and nuts, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Clean eating is that easy.

Third, start an exercise program with a fitness professional

This is the most obvious step. When you’re ready to get into tip-top shape, find a fitness professional who can help you along the way by creating a simple, step-by-step program. Invest in your health and watch the rest of your life change too.

Fred Sassani is the founder of Bodies By Design, a nationally certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist. For comments or questions, you can reach Fred at or visit

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Whole Grains Health

How to Tell if Your Baby is Ready to Stop Drinking Formula – Cleveland Clinic



Make the formula. Feed your sweetie. Wash, rinse, repeat. For parents of babies who drink infant formula, you did this dance several times a day (and night) for what felt like an eternity. But could the end finally be in sight? When do babies stop drinking milk?

The Cleveland Clinic is a not-for-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our website helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. politics

“A healthy baby should drink breast milk or formula up to the age of 1 year. Formulas are fortified with the vitamins and iron they need, ”says pediatrician Radhai Prabhakaran, MD. “In general, babies aged 9 months to 1 year should have at least 24 ounces per day. But once your baby is on a full diet of nutritious solid foods, switch to cow’s milk, which contains protein and vitamin D. “

Indicates your baby is ready to wean the formula

Whether babies are ready to board the milk express depends on their taste for table food. “Some babies get used to a mostly solid diet early (between 9 and 12 months) because they like it and they are okay with it. If you have a nutritionally balanced diet, it is okay to wean your baby from infant formula before the age of one. “

A healthy solid food diet for a baby should include:

  • Fruit.
  • Grains.
  • Protein from meat, eggs, or boiled beans.
  • Vegetables.

“Gradually reduce the amount of formula you drink as you eat more. Keep offering it to drink because sometimes babies are not full after eating solid foods, ”notes Dr. Prabhakaran. “But wait until they are 1 year old to introduce cow’s milk, even if they wean earlier.”

Signs your baby is NOT ready to wean the formula

Your baby should continue feeding if:

  • You’re not gaining weight.
  • Were born prematurely.
  • Have not established a balanced solid diet.
  • You need to proceed with the formula based on your doctor’s recommendation. (For example, if your baby has food allergies or has trouble digesting food or absorbing nutrients.)

Health conditions that affect how long babies drink formula

Certain underlying health conditions can affect how long it takes your baby to drink formula. Babies may need to stay on the formula longer if they:

“And if your doctor has already told you that your baby may need to be on a special diet, talk to him or her before weaning your baby off the formula,” adds Dr. Prabhakaran added. “They can help you come up with a nutrition plan that will make the transition safer.”

How to wean your baby off formula

If your baby likes the taste of cow’s milk:

  1. Start giving them a 2 to 4 ounce serving of milk for every two or three servings of formula.
  2. For up to 10 days over the next week, increase the servings of milk as you decrease the servings of the formula.
  3. Stop giving milk as soon as you have drunk the milk without any problems.

If your baby prefers the taste of formula:

  1. Build the formula as usual. Do not add cow’s milk to the milk powder.
  2. Mix together 2 ounces of prepared formula and 2 ounces of cow’s milk so you have a 4-ounce drink for your baby.
  3. Feed your baby the mixture.
  4. Over the next week to 10 days, add more milk and less milk to the mixture until it is all cow’s milk.

Bottle or cup?

Get ready to say goodbye to the bottle. Dr. Prabhakaran says that drinking from a bottle is a no-go from the age of 1. “Bottle feeding can affect tooth growth and cause tooth decay.”

Instead, switch your little one to a swallow, straw, or regular cup at around 9 months of age. “When you’re feeling adventurous, wean her off the formula and the bottle at the same time.”

Does my baby still need milk when he wakes up at night?

Dr. Prabhakaran notes that most babies of this age do not need to eat when they wake up at night. “When babies have doubled their birth weight (which happens after about 4 to 6 months) and are eating solid foods regularly, they generally don’t need extra calories and can sleep through the night. So encourage her to go back to sleep. “

Babies of this age also have the most milk teeth, so drinking milk or formula at night can lead to dental problems. Night feeding can also make them too full to eat what they need during the day.

But as always there are exceptions. “If your baby is not gaining weight, your doctor can give you other advice. Breast-fed babies can also take a little longer because the breast milk is digested more quickly. “

When to apply the brakes when stopping the formula

Dr. Prabhakaran says the transition to cow’s milk should be even slower once babies start drinking milk and experience:

  • Dramatic change in her bowel movements.
  • Abundance.

If these symptoms persist or worsen, speak to your baby’s pediatrician about a possible milk allergy. If necessary, your doctor can recommend safe milk alternatives for young children.

Signs that your baby may not tolerate cow’s milk include:

  • Constipation.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Rash.
  • Vomit.

What is the best milk for a 1 year old?

Experts consider whole cow milk to be the best milk for 1-year-olds after weaning. “The general rule is whole milk until they’re 2 years old, unless there are special circumstances,” says Dr. Prabhakaran.

Your doctor may recommend 2% milk instead if your baby:

  • Is difficult for her size.
  • Drink more than the recommended amount of milk (16 to 24 ounces per day or 2 to 3 cups).
  • Is blocked.

Milk alternatives for toddlers

Unsweetened soy milk is one of the best cow milk alternatives for toddlers because it has a similar protein content. But soy milk has fewer calories – which babies need to thrive – than whole milk. The calorie content of unsweetened rice milk is slightly higher, but it contains less protein and more added sugar.

The best way to make a decision, says Dr. Prabhakaran, is to look at your child’s overall diet. “There are so many milk alternatives and the diets of babies are very different. It’s impossible to have a blanket rule of what’s okay. Some children eat a lot of yogurt and cheese. Some babies are vegan. Talk to your baby’s doctor about the best alternative to help your child with certain deficiencies and general nutrition. “

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