Saturday, March 14, 2009

Schools and calorie boards

Within the last few years, there has been a big push to put calories on menus to fight the "obesity" epidemic. I'm sure most of us have heard about it. In mid-February, a Federal Appeals court in New York upheld the ruling of posting calories on menus. Though some chain restaurants have already been doing this, it is now required if there are 15 or more outlets. California and Philadelphia have taken similar regulations with effects occurring next year. Even the UK has gotten in on this bandwagon.

With large states taking this action, it seems like it is happening everywhere. Posted calorie menus have been seen on college campuses (though Harvard removed theirs) and now even in school districts. Case in point, in North Carolina, some districts are going high tech in presenting nutrition information, including some with calorie and fat numbers. Amy Harkey of the CMS Child Nutrition Services says, "
Food can be fun for kids, and I think that message needs to come across. We don't want to burden them with too much."

While it's true that food can be fun and should be, how would presenting a blaring neon-type board with calorie counts not be burdening to children? This only emphasizes dieting, a pre-cursor to eating disorders and unhealthy body image. Though I think it is is important to have some general information, like ingredients of wheat, soy, seafood, peanut for those with allergies, I think listing calories is unwise. Schools need to figure out an alternative way of passing along nutrition information. I can guarantee that this will only cause more harm than good on an already vulnerable population.

6 comments:

Lisa said...

Arrgh. I'm working on a "healthy schools project" myself, and I made a point at one meeting to say that I do NOT think calorie counts should be posted in the cafeteria. If schools still want to do something, show the amount of calcium in a grilled cheese, or the amount of protein in a turkey sandwich. Focus on what kids are going to get from the foods they eat, not what these foods are going to "do" to them.

Gaining Back My Life said...

Yes, YES, Lisa!!!! It's not the calories, but the NUTRIENTS that we gain from the food that matters.

My D taught me that; if I have a hot chocolate in the AM and tell myself I can't have breakfast b/c I've used up my calories, look at the nutritional content - there's nothing sustainable there.

Just Eat It! said...

Children should not have to worry about calories. In fact, I don't think children should even know what calories are.

Tiptoe said...

I agree with all of you. The focus needs to be on nutrition, something of substantial value, not calories and endless numbers.

Sarah said...

Not to mention that children do not understand calories, fat grams, etc. My little sister (8) heard a message at school about how "eating too much fat is bad" and later chided me for eating peanut butter-"look, it says 12 g of fat." She doesn't know about healthy fats, serving sizes (I don't have 2 tbsp of peanut butter in one serving,) or that fat is nutritious for her body. She also didn't know that chicken had fat. Obviously, she is not mature enough to understand the nuances of fat consumption; why should she have to learn about it?! Just teach her about eating fruits, vegetables, and dairy and back the heck off...

Tiptoe said...

Sarah, I totally agree with you. Children at those ages do not need to know those things, much less worry about them. It can set them up for so many problems later on down the road.