Saturday, August 31, 2013

Comparing Apples to Oranges

I recently completed an internship with a Dietitian in charge of school nutrition in a large county in Georgia. My competencies included conducting a plate waste study. I decided to explore fruit consumption since it must be on kids' trays at both breakfast and lunch per the new government regulations. Specifically I studied pre-bagged, sliced oranges and whole apples. I observed and recorded the amount of fruit each elementary school child consumed: None, 1/6, 2/6, 3/6, 4/6, 5/6, or all on a data collection sheet.

I conducted the study over a two day period. Both days, the children were
required to take a fruit (oranges - day one or apples - day two), a vegetable or both in order to fulfill the government's reimbursable meal requirement. On day one, 65 lunches were served and 39 children selected oranges (60%). Of these 39 children that selected oranges, 23 consumed 1/3 or more (59%).

On the second day, whole apples were served to the children. 75 lunches
were served and 55 children chose apples (73%). Out of the 55 children that
selected apples, 21 consumed 1/3 or more (36%).

These results show that even though more apples were selected as the fruit choice, more apples
were wasted than oranges. Shockingly, 49% of apples were discarded whole and 39% of oranges were thrown away uneaten! That is a lot of wasted fruit.

The government's fruit and vegetable mandates for kids are great, but not if this produce is thrown away uneaten. To combat waste, I encourage schools to offer children a wide selection of fruit and vegetable options. Allowing them to select something they will enjoy instead of discard is important to curbing waste. Adults may also want to consider designating a sharing table within the cafeteria. This enables children that do not want a required lunch tray component to share it with another child rather than throwing it in the trash. Additionally, schools could administer surveys to see what produce kids prefer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What Does it Mean to be Gluten-free + Lunch/Snack Ideas for Kids

In recent years, gluten-free foods have gained popularity due to the increased number of people with wheat allergies, gluten sensitivity and Celiac Disease. Moreover, recent reports have indicated the incidence of Celiac’s in children may be as high as 1 in 80. Individuals that suffer from these conditions must avoid gluten, the protein found in wheat and other grains. This is because consuming gluten triggers an inflammatory response that breaks down the absorptive villi in the small intestine. As the villi begin to breakdown, they flatten and food digestion and absorption is significantly decreased. Many health issues result such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, migraines, joint paint and fatigue. However, it is possible for an individual to exhibit no symptoms, or simply become accustomed to the symptoms if they have suffered throughout their life.

Adapting a gluten-free diet helps the intestine reduce inflammation and heal. Symptoms lessen and eventually may disappear. This change happens in only a few weeks for children, but may take years in adults due to more extensive intestinal damage. Avoiding treatment may be dangerous because more serious health conditions can develop over time .

It can be challenging for parents with children that have a gluten sensitivity, allergy or Celiac Disease to think of healthy gluten-free lunch and snack options. Just because something in the supermarket is labeled “Gluten-free” does not mean it is healthy for your child. To help ease the burden, here are some ideas:

  • Wrap sandwiches made with corn tortillas
  • Brown rice pasta with meat sauce
  • Deli sandwich or peanut butter and jelly on gluten-free bread like Rudi's
  • Homemade soups packed in a heated container
  • Carrot, celery sticks or cherry tomatoes with gluten-free salad dressing or hummus
  • Whole grain corn chips with salsa
  • Fresh fruit or fruit salad
  • Fruit and nut bars like Larabar or Kind bars