by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Breakfast

Mar 28 2016

From research to policy: making school food healthier and more effective

Why anyone would be opposed to giving healthy food to kids in schools is beyond me, but school food is a flash point for political fights.

Sometimes research helps.  Two recent studies produce results that can be used to counter criticisms of government school meal programs.

Kids are eating more healthfully than they used to, according to a research study funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The study concludes:

Food policy in the form of improved nutrition standards was associated with the selection of foods that are higher in nutrients that are of importance in adolescence and lower in energy density. Implementation of the new meal standards was not associated with a negative effect on student meal participation. In this district, meal standards effectively changed the quality of foods selected by children.

This is excellent news for proponents of better school food.  USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement:

This study is the latest in a long list of evidence which shows that stronger school meal standards are leading to healthier habits in schools. Children are eating more fruits and vegetables and consuming more nutrients, making them better prepared to learn and succeed in the classroom. After decades of a growing obesity epidemic that harmed the health and future of our children and cost our country billions, we are starting to see progress in preventing this disease. Now is not the time to take as step backwards in our efforts to do what is right for our children’s health. I urge Congress to reauthorize the child nutrition programs as soon as possible and to maintain the high standards set by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Kids who eat breakfast in school are healthier.  Even if they have already had breakfast at home, kids who eat school breakfasts are less likely to be overweight or obese than those who don’t, finds a study from groups at U. Connecticut and Yale.

The press release explains:

The findings of the study…add to an ongoing debate over policy efforts to increase daily school breakfast consumption. Previous research has shown that, for students, eating breakfast is associated with improved academic performance, better health, and healthy body weight. But there have been concerns that a second breakfast at school following breakfast at home could increase the risk of unhealthy weight gain.

So now we know: they do not.

Research like this is unlikely to settle the matter but it ought to help school personnel who are working hard to make sure that kids get something decent to eat and to move ahead on school food initiatives.

Mar 26 2015

Is breakfast necessary?

With apologies for how silly this question might sound, Whitney Kimball of Hopes&Fears asked, “Is breakfast the most important meal of the day?”

Here’s what I told her:

The question isn’t silly at all, although I always laugh when I hear it. That is because I am publicly outed as not a breakfast eater—at least not first thing in the morning. I don’t usually start getting hungry until 11 or so and rarely eat before then. Coffee, yes. Solid food, later please. The idea that early eating is essential makes perfect sense for farm laborers and small children. Whether it matters for normal, sedentary adults is a different question.

Many—if not most—studies demonstrating that breakfast eaters are healthier and manage weight better than non-breakfast eaters were sponsored by Kellogg or other breakfast cereal companies whose businesses depend on people believing that breakfast means ready-to-eat cereal.  Independently funded studies tend to show that any eating pattern can promote health if it provides vegetables and fruits, balances calories, and does not include much junk food. For most people, when you eat matters far less than how much you eat.  If you wake up starving, by all means eat an early breakfast. If not, eat when you are hungry and don’t worry about it.   Kids who won’t have access to decent food in school may well be better off fed breakfast at home and surely will learn better if their stomachs aren’t growling.

Mar 3 2015

Food Navigator’s special issue on breakfast cereals, plus additions

First see Bloomberg News on Who killed Tony the Tiger: How Kellogg lost breakfast (February 26)Next, see what’s happening to breakfast from the point of view of the food industry.

What’s for breakfast? Re-inventing the first meal of the day

On paper, breakfast cereal ticks all the right boxes. It’s quick, great value for money, and nutritious – the perfect recession-proof food. Yet US consumption has dropped steadily as consumers have sought out more convenient – and often more expensive – alternatives, and ‘breakfast’ has switched from being one of three square meals a day to just another snacking occasion. So is the future one of managed decline, or can innovation pull the cereal category out of its funk?

Sep 19 2007

Breakfast?

My son Charles, who lives in Los Angeles, sends this interesting site on which a photographer, Jon Huck I presume, has taken pictures of people posed with what they eat for breakfast. The breakfast project is along the lines of the spectacular books, Hungry Planet among them, done by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio, and for which I wrote the introduction. These are fascinating takes on what people really eat (as opposed to what they tell nutritionists). Enjoy!

Update: Turns out you can join this project. Take a camera with you to breakfast and send the results to Jon Huck. He will post your entry.