Parental skepticism needed on juices, ‘organic’ milk, school food programs

Apple-Juice-286x300For parents who struggle to ensure their kids eat right, news reports in recent days have offered some notable insights:  They may wish to pack school lunches with whole fruit, and be wary of youngsters’ over-consumption of fruit juices. They also may want to cast a skeptical eye on claims for “organic” milk.

And, even as school food programs seem to be making nutritional headway, moms and dads may need to keep a close eye on the lunch rooms due to Trump Administration policy changes.

Although many grownups rightly have sought to exile sugary sweet drinks, especially sodas, from youngsters’ diets, researchers say fruit juice should be substituted sparingly. It should be an occasional treat, not a big part of every meal.

That’s because, contrary to conventional wisdom, juices too often are sugar-laden drinks, too. The process of turning fruit into juice concentrates the sugar and jacks up associated calories.  As nutrition experts noted in a piece in the Washington Post: “Whereas an orange may contain 45 calories, an eight-ounce glass of orange juice contains 110 calories, and a large kale, banana and orange juice blend at a leading juice chain contains 380 calories.”

Just consider: If your active, thirsty 9- to 13-year-old boy or girl downs two of those blends, they’ve taken in a third of the maximum, 2,600-calories per day intake recommended for youngsters their age.

Instead, experts say, parents should consider providing lots of whole fruit or fruit pieces to kids and for themselves. Serving fruit this way ensures they get the pulp and skin that add nutritional value, fiber, and sufficient substance that tells the brain, “I’m full,” so we don’t over-eat them.

Eating whole fruit can be healthful, as the New York Times has reported. It says that, based on a seven-year study of a half million Chinese— research that controlled for other factors like smoking, blood pressure and alcohol consumption— a daily diet rich in fresh fruit reduced subjects’ risk of developing diabetes and the risk of the disease’s complications.

Although the nutrition experts in the Washington Post argued that parents should consider substituting milk—with much less sugar and loads of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium—for fruit juice, savvy consumers also way wish to be wary of the hype surrounding organic milk. The paper also has posted an intriguing look at a big Colorado dairy that is one of the larger organic suppliers to major retailers like WalMart and Costco.  The operation, alas, seems more like common commercial dairies, not the pasture-grazing, hormone-restricting dairies that organic consumers idealize. The paper says buyers should be wary of hype about getting a more natural product.

That skepticism also may be valuable to parents as they monitor how well their kids’ schools do when feeding them. Even as the Pew Charitable Trusts, a leading philanthropic organization, was researching and finding that school nutrition policy measures adopted in recent years—many during the last Administration—had benefited the nation’s young, Sonny Perdue, the new federal agriculture secretary, squashed stricter standards for school breakfasts and lunches for more than 30 million children.

He said schools had struggled to meet federal rules that sought to make kids’ school meals less filled with salt, fewer servings of sweetened milk, and with more whole grain products. While eating chicken tenders and a salad, Perdue also asserted that kids disliked meals prepared under the more stringent standards and had tossed many of them. (The Trump Administration, by the way, also has tried to discard the Affordable Care Act’s requirements for more nutrition disclosure on restaurant menus, including calorie counts.)

So goes politics: Healthier school meals for kids had been a personal cause of First Lady Michelle Obama, and the Obama Administration’s nutrition initiatives were derided by conservatives as being part of a nanny state.

In my practice, I see the terrible harms that children can suffer while seeking medical services, and I favor all the ways that we can get kids to eat better, exercise more, and stay healthier all together—the further from needing medical care the better, say I. Childhood obesity persists as a major problem with lifelong pernicious effects, and we need to do more than mock well-intentioned initiatives to improve our kids bad eating habits.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
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