Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Flavored Milk Wars: Is a tempest in a milk carton good for kids’ nutrition?

As a Registered Dietitian (RD) who has dedicated more than 30 years of my work and volunteer life to child nutrition, I’m bewildered by the intensity of efforts to ban flavored milk from schools. Petition drives, community forums, hyperbolic sound bites – really? Is this all about 10 or 12 grams of sugar? I wonder if these confrontational tactics are best the thing for improving children’s nutrition. Might our time be better spent collaborating on a school garden, a salad bar, or a campaign to get more calcium into kids?

First, let’s take a look at the facts about the flavored milk served in schools today. This is not a “milkshake” in a plastic bottle nor the flavored milk that you drank in school. In just the past five years, the dairy industry has responded to nutrition concerns and renovated their products dramatically.

  • From 2006 to 2011, the average calories in flavored milk decreased by 23 calories – to just under 143 calories in 8 ounces. This is only 39 more calories than white milk.
  • Decreasing calories has been accomplished by reducing fat (to fat-free milk) and reducing added sugar. Added sugar in flavored milk has declined by 30% – by 5 grams per cup – over the past 5 years.
  • Many dairies now offer flavored milk with just 10 to 12 grams of added sugar per cup. Some anti-flavor activists fail to remember all milk has 12 grams of natural sugar (lactose) straight from the cow!
  • For example, the fat-free chocolate milk served in New York City public schools has just 130 calories, 22 grams of total sugar, that’s 12 grams from naturally occurring lactose and 10 grams of added sugar.

Next, let’s keep our eyes on the nutrition prize. While some children in the US are getting too many calories for their activity level, a significant number of children are seriously under-nourished. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans listed four nutrients of concern for adults and children: calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and dietary fiber. These nutrients are “of concern” because our low consumption can affect our health today and in the future. Here ‘s how nutrients of concern relate to the flavored milk debate:

  • Just like white milk, flavored milk provides three of the nutrients of concern – all of them except dietary fiber.
  • All milks are nutrient-rich beverages. They are packed with what kids need for strong bodies – calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, as well as protein, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B12, riboflavin, and niacin.

Finally, let’s figure out how to work together to improve nutrition in schools and for families, especially those in low-income, at-risk neighborhoods. Improving child nutrition in the US is going to take serious collaboration – among parents, dietitians, chefs, and school nutrition professionals.

Banning flavored milk might have the potential for a tiny reduction in calories. However, several national and local studies have confirmed that it is also likely to reduce overall milk consumption. Is this really a smart approach? No one – not even dairy advocates – is suggesting that we should push flavored at kids. Let’s have fat-free flavored milk as one option in school cafeteria. Let’s not throw important nutrients out with misplaced concerns about small amounts of sugar.

Let’s put our passion for child nutrition toward effective collaborations on positive ways to improve access to delicious nutrient-rich, more-locally sourced foods at school and at home. Let’s get together on School Gardens, local Farm-to-School projects, and helping kids build “Best Bones Forever.”

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD, president of Nutrition for the Future, Inc., blogs at Nutrition for the Future and showcases the school nutrition revolution at School Meals That Rock. She is the immediate Past-Chair of the School Nutrition Services Dietetic Practice Group of the American Dietetic Association and also Co-Chair of Billings Action for Healthy Kids in her hometown of Billings, Montana. Dayle is proud to work with the dairy farm families represented by National Dairy Council and regional dairy councils, such as Western Dairy Association.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

5 Simple Ways to Start Walking with Your Sole Mates

Walking is good for your body, your brain, and your mood. When you find a few good walking buddies, it’s good for your social life too! Walking is fun, easy, and probably the cheapest workout on the planet. All you need is well fitting, comfortable walking shoes. Put on a pair - and start walking your way to health and happiness today!

1. Wear your walking shoes around the house.

Walking shoes can put a spring in your step even when you are doing routine chores around the house. Put on some music and you might even feel like dancing. Plus, if you’ve got your walking shoes on, you can enjoy a 10-minute walk in the sun when you go out to empty the trash. Research shows that a 10-minute burst of activity can offer a real boost to your mood.

2. Wear your walking shoes to the office.

Walking at work can improve your health and productivity too. Studies show that physical activity can help one’s ability to concentrate on detailed tasks. A short walk instead of a high calorie snack may help reduce your stress and allow you to better focus on your job. Walking meetings can also be an effective way to get some business done with your coworkers.

3. Wear your walking shoes while shopping.

Whether it is running errands at lunchtime or longer shopping expeditions on the weekend, walking shoes can help you get things done while ‘working out.’ Take a friend or two and park in a central location. Walk to all your shopping destinations, then back to the car with your bags. Now, that is some successful multi-tasking, along with social networking too!

4. Wear your walking shoes to the game.

Ever go to children’s or grandchildren’s soccer, baseball, or football games? When you wear walking shoes, there’s no need to be stuck on the sidelines ever again. You, along with family members and friends, can walk around the field - being active, being social, and watching the game from all perspectives. Walking around is also a great way to entertain small children.

5. Wear your walking shoes everywhere.

Your sole mates - those comfortable walking shoes - can take you many places. They can take you around town, up and down mountains, or across foreign countries. They can take you into new social circles and help you make friends with dogs of all sizes. Wear your walking shoes whenever you can and you’ll probably be healthier, happier, and wiser.