Supermarket access is key ingredient in obesity programs

May 3, 2014, Medical Xpress

Living close to a supermarket appears to be a key factor in the success of interventions to help obese children eat better and improve their weight, according to a study presented May 3 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Urban neighborhoods and rural towns without access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food are known as food deserts. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, food deserts sometimes have only fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.

Few studies have looked at whether living farther from a large supermarket affects the success of interventions to improve eating habits and reduce weight. Continue reading

How grocery store coupons can encourage healthful eating

April 10, 2014, The Washington Post

By Lenny Bernstein

Grocery coupons aren’t associated with nutritious food. Big chains use them to lure you into the store, offering discounts mostly on processed food and snacks. When researchers looked at 1,056 coupons available online for supermarkets nationwide, they found that the largest share (25 percent) were for “processed snack foods, candies, and desserts.” Another 14 percent offered price breaks on prepared meals, 11 percent were for cereals, and 12 percent were for beverages, more than half of which were sodas, juices, and energy or sports drinks.

Just 3 percent offered discounts on vegetables, 1 percent were for unprocessed meats, and fewer than 1 percent provided breaks on fruit prices. And those fruits were canned, not fresh.

If stores make “the unhealthier option less expensive and easier to purchase, we can’t be surprised when [people] purchase it,” said Andrea Lopez, a research analyst at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, who helped conduct the study. It was published in March in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease. Continue reading

New school meal standards significantly increase fruit, vegetable consumption

March 4, 2014, Harvard School of Public Health News

New federal standards launched in 2012 that require schools to offer healthier meals have led to increased fruit and vegetable consumption, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers. The study, the first to examine school food consumption both before and after the standards went into effect, contradicts criticisms that the new standards have increased food waste.

“There is a push from some organizations and lawmakers to weaken the new standards. We hope the findings, which show that students are consuming more fruits and vegetables, will discourage those efforts,” said lead author Juliana Cohen, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH.

Some 32 million students eat school meals every day; for many low-income students, up to half their daily energy intake is from school meals. Under the previous dietary guidelines, school breakfasts and lunches were high in sodium and saturated fats and were low in whole grains and fiber. The new standards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aimed to improve the nutritional quality of school meals by making whole grains, fruits, and vegetables more available, requiring the selection of a fruit or vegetable, increasing the portion sizes of fruits and vegetables, removing trans fats, and placing limits on total calories and sodium levels. Continue reading

Pay kids to eat fruits and veggies with school lunch

Dec. 16, 2013, Brigham Young University

The good news: Research suggests that a new federal rule has prompted the nation’s schools to serve an extra $5.4 million worth of fruits and vegetables each day.

The bad news: The nation’s children throw about $3.8 million of that in the garbage each day.

Researchers from Brigham Young University and Cornell University observed three schools adjust to new school lunch standards that require a serving of fruits or vegetables on every student’s tray – whether the child intends to eat it or not. As they report in the December issue of Public Health Nutrition, students discarded 70 percent of the extra fruits and vegetables.

“We saw a minor increase in kids eating the items, but there are other ways to achieve the same goal that are much, much cheaper,” said BYU economics professor Joe Price.

Strange as it sounds, directly paying students to eat a fruit or vegetable is less expensive and gets better results. Continue reading

Big Bird, Elmo to encourage kids to eat produce

Nov. 27, 2013, DCA Press

A trip down the grocery store produce aisle could soon feel like a stroll down “Sesame Street.”

Michelle Obama announced that the nonprofit organization behind the popular children’s educational TV program will let the produce industry use Elmo, Big Bird, and Sesame Street’s other furry characters free of charge to market fruits and veggies to kids.

The goal is to get children who often turn up their noses at the sight of produce to eat more of it.

Under the arrangement, Sesame Workshop is waiving the licensing fee for its Muppet characters for two years.

As soon as next spring, shoppers and children accompanying them can expect to see their favorite Sesame Street characters on stand-alone signs and on stickers and labels on all types of produce regardless of whether it comes in a bag, a carton, or just its skin. Continue reading

Latino families in study eat more fruits and veggies, drink less soda

Aug. 12, 2013, Medical Xpress

A successful program that increased the number of fruits and vegetables eaten and decreased sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by 50 percent among Latino children had two secret weapons, according to a University of Illinois (U of I) researcher.

“First, we got mothers and other relatives involved because family togetherness is a very important value for Latinos. Many programs, delivered at school, target only the child, but we know that kids have very little ability to choose the foods they eat at home—they don’t purchase or prepare them,” said Angela Wiley, a U of I professor of applied family studies.

The second guiding principle was “mas y menos,” meaning “a little more, a little less.”

“Interventions often fail because their goals are too lofty. If someone tells me that ice cream is the root of my problem and I can’t eat any more of it, I’ll be disheartened and say I can’t do this. If someone says, would you be willing to eat ice cream two days a week instead of five, or eat light ice cream instead, I would be more willing to try,” she said. Continue reading

‘Prescription’ for fruits, vegetables city’s next remedy in battle against obesity

July 23, 2012, New York Daily News

By Casey Tolan and Larry Mcshane

Take two tomatoes and call me in the morning.

City officials unveiled a new get-healthy program July 23 where doctors will “prescribe” a menu of fresh fruits and vegetables to patients battling obesity.

“This is probably going to prevent an awful lot of disease in the long term than the medicines we tend to write prescriptions for,” said New York Health Commissioner Thomas Farley. Continue reading

CDC report shows U.S. still not eating enough fruits and veggies

Increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables eaten by children and adults is an important step toward preventing and reducing obesity in the United States and lowering the risk of developing many chronic diseases.

The newest edition of the State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables (2013) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides state-by-state information on fruit and vegetable consumption. It also presents environmental and policy indicators that measure a state’s ability to support consumption of fruits and vegetables through increased access and availability in schools and communities. Continue reading

Adding dip to veggies gets kids to eat more

May 31, 2013, Reuters

By Kerry Grens

Offering a dip alongside vegetables encourages kids to eat veggies they might normally push aside, according to a new study.

“It is a good idea to try to pair less preferred foods, like vegetables, particularly those that your child doesn’t like so much, with something to give it a little more flavor,” said Marlene Schwartz, of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, who was not involved in the study.

Jennifer Savage, at the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Pennsylvania State University, and colleagues asked 34 preschoolers to do a taste test of vegetables with and without a low-fat dip.

More kids said they liked the vegetable if it was paired with a flavored dip that they liked, compared to a vegetable without a dip or with a plain dip. Continue reading

Mandating fruits and vegetables in school meals makes a difference

March 12, 2013, Newswise

State laws that require minimum levels of fruits and vegetables in school meals may give a small boost to the amount of these foods in adolescents’ diets, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. This effect was strongest in students who had no access to fruits and vegetables at home.

With the recent requirements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National School Lunch Program to incorporate healthier options in school meals, the researchers wanted to find out if such laws made a difference in student fruit and vegetable consumption. Continue reading