There has been recent debate about the wisdom of removing sugar laden milks from America’s cafeterias. The very sensible argument in favor of removing flavored milk says that children are already consuming far too much sugar and do not need the additional calories. See Jamie Oliver’s breakdown of the logic here. The counter argument says that flavored milk is a more popular choice and switching back to “plain-old” milk reduces consumption, which in turn, robs children of vital nutrients, for details click here.
So, I guess we need to cave in to the cravings of our collective youth and give them the sugar they are demanding. At least they will be getting their nutrients, right? As I was pondering this very question I came across this doozy, no doubt directly from the PR newswire and aptly titled “ A healthy dose of sound nutrition science“, defending colored, sugared, flavored grains, otherwise known as “Breakfast” cereal. Once again the argument is clear, we must overload the olfactory senses of our children in order that they may at last ingest whole grains and other nutrients.
Now, let us talk a bit of sense, why don’t we? Flavoring the milk is a way to sell more milk. That is understood. It has been a growth segment in the dairy industry for years. In the same way, coloring, branding, infusing, flavoring and packaging grains with very specific child appeal sells more of them. As Michael Pollan has noted, all of these additives are used to increase dollar value of the food, not necessarily the nutritional value. Over-consumption of sugar in particular has been directly linked to health problems in the developed world. For a great breakdown of our over-consumption of sugar, see this piece here.
Even more alarming was a recent study done at UC Davis where participants were fed high fructose corn syrup and sugar laden beverages for in lieu of other calories after having eschewed sugar during the first part of the control. In ONLY TWO WEEKS TIME, the otherwise healthy participants began to experience symptoms of Metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, liver dysfunction and other very problematic results. You can read that study here: Eating too much sugar can increase heart disease risk factors, Study Finds.
Now, I should not have to point out that there are other options for our children than loading their “nutrients” with sugars, chemicals and superfluous additives. This in not simply a choice between feeding our kids highly processed foods or ending up with malnourished children. There are other options, THE RIGHT ONES. Common sense should tell you that any benefit gained from these so-called nutrients is surely negated by the harmful additives. And it is the wrong message. Eat an apple or a banana for pete’s sake! The store shelves are overflowing with modern day wonder foods, with boxes full of promises, and yet we have a generation of obese and unhealthy children.
More importantly, as food service professionals, parents and intelligent individuals, we are charged with making better choices for the children we serve. We must show them that proper nutrition is a result of combining basic wholesome foods, not opening a box of fruity flavored surprise that will look, feel, taste and smell the same a year later. Ours is a job of education and patience.
On that note, I thought i would include a section of my book where Niblet breaks down the sugar section of the nutrient panel for the children. This is a simple way to talk about sugar and our extreme over-consumption in this country.
“What is next Olivia.” Asked Niblet. “Are you looking at the nutrient panel?”
“It’s Sugar Niblet. And I know that sugar gives you cavities.” Said Olivia.
“Well, yes, Sugar does give you cavities if you don’t brush and floss properly. But the greatest problem with sugar today is that we are eating far too much of it. We need sugar to function but not nearly as much as we are eating. The World Health Organization recommendation for sugar is 50 grams per day or about 10% of your total calories. But most people are consuming many times that amount. High Fructose Corn Syrup and other sugars are good for preservation and taste so manufacturers are putting them everywhere they can, which means there is sugar in places you would not expect.” Said Niblet.
“Wait, Niblet, you said the daily reccommendation for sugar is only 50 grams?” Said Giulana.
“That is correct Giuliana” Niblet replied.
“But, I was looking at one of those 20oz bottles of Soda the other day and it had 65 grams of sugar in it.” Said Giuliana. “That is more than our entire daily allowance. That could not be right, could it?”
“Actually, it is Giuliana. And sadly, Many people consume far more than 20oz of soda per day. You have seen those enormous cups haven’t you? 32oz is a standard these days with over 100 grams of sugar in each ginourmous cup. The problem is that sugar has been proven to play a role in the Obesity epidemic and the related diseases. But just cutting out soda is not enough. So many products like yogurt, oatmeal, “protein bars”, and even salad dressings that purport to be healthy are loaded with sugar.” Said Niblet
“So what do we do Niblet,” asked Wesa anxiously.
Niblet responded, “You must look at the nutrient panel and keep your total sugar grams under 50 per day. BUT you must also read the ingredient list, because artificial sweeteners are often used in conjunction with sugar to fool you into thinking something is healthier because their are fewer grams of sugar. We know It doesn’t make sense to reduce our sugar intake if we are going to replace it with something even worse like artificial sweeteners.”
“So, just as you have been repeating, we need to look at the nutrient panel but we also must look at the ingredient statement. I guess it is the same with everything, we really need to find out What we are eating, not just the number of nutrients that are on the box, isn’t that right Niblet?” Asked Wesa.
“That is precisely what you need to remember Wesa.” Said Niblet Happily. “Your health is in your hands, but it is not easy work. You must pay attention. Good health takes some work, but it is infinitely rewarding.”
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