School Lunches: So They Got Rid of the Fat; What About The Sugar?

OK, so they got rid of the cheesy pizzas and french fries and fried chicken.  But what about the chocolate cake?

A new study has found that while school lunch programs have indeed dropped most of the fatty foods, they've done nothing about the sugar. reports, "The federal government caps the amount of fat and salt in breakfasts and lunches. It sets minimum standards for servings of fruit, vegetables, grains, milk and meat. But one widely used and often-overused product has no official limits: sugar."

And here's a chilling thought: do the feds not focus on sugar because of its powerful lobbyists?

According to the Web site, recent research shows that sugar levels in school meals are more than double what is recommended for the general public. "Elementary school lunch menus contain 115 percent of the recommended daily calories from added sugars and fats, according to a November study by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service." And middle school and high school lunch menus aren't any better -- they average between 59 and 74 percent of the recommended amounts.

(I'm lucky.  My son's brown-bagged it every day of his life!)

To add to the calories, about 1 in 5 school lunch menus includes dessert, the federal study said, including . cookies, cakes and brownies.  You'll love this; some of them are counted as grain requirements!

“Sugar-related products are the least expensive source of calories in the school meal program,” Matthew Sharp, senior advocate for California Food Policy Advocates, told He said many school officials oppose reducing sugar in meals because it would force them to buy more expensive products.

But it's not all in the cafeteria.  It's in the class rooms, too.  “One problem in schools is the birthday celebrations, sports events and teachers giving kids candy for correct answers,” quotes Marion Nestle, author of “Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health” and a nutrition professor at New York University. “Those are unregulated.”

Here's the sugar lobby's answer: “Sugar makes many healthful foods palatable so children will eat them, which the science confirms helps increase intakes of many essential vitamins and minerals.”

True, but it doesn't mean we have to sweeten our foods to make kids eat them.  How about, "You'll sit there till you finish your spinach?"  Oh, now I remember.  That doesn't work either!


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