Last week, I reported on the latest IOM recommendations to revamp the 14-year old Nutrition Standards and Meal Requirements. Another report, this time from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the recommendations, which call for more fruit and vegetables in US school lunches, are really necessary should be implemented as soon as possible.
According to the CDC report, Americans of all ages are not eating enough fruit and vegetables to meet their dietary requirements. This is especially evident among teenagers. This comes 9 years after Healthy People 2010 which set a target that 75% of the population would eat at least 2 servings of fruit each day and 50% would eat at least 3 vegetable servings daily. Well, 2010 is just a few months away but the target is still as far away as ever. The CDC State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables 2009 reveal:
- Not one state is meeting the targets for fruit and vegetable consumption.
- 32% teens (high school students) eat the recommended daily servings of fruit and 13% for vegetables.
- Only 33% of adults eat the daily fruit consumption recommendation and 27% of vegetables.
- Only 1 in 5 (21%t) middle and high schools offer fruits and non–fried vegetables in vending machines, school stores or snack bars.
Fruit and vegetables are important for optimal growth, weight management, and prevention of chronic diseases. With children obesity an all time high, health experts are urging for better nutrition among the younger generation – in school and at home.
Can fruit and vegetables help in weight management? The few studies done on this topic indicate that the answer is yes. Food may be classified based on energy density which is the relationship of calories to the weight of food (calories per gram).
- High energy density foods (4 to 9 calories/g): Examples are high fat foods like butter, bacon, and cookies.
- Medium energy density foods 1.5 to 4 calories/g): Examples are hard-boiled eggs, dried fruit, lean sirloin steak, and whole wheat bread
- Low energy (0.7 to 1.5 calories/g) and very low energy density foods (0 to 0.6 calories/g): Examples are fruit and vegetables and fat-free yoghurt or cheese.
Several studies show that consumption of low energy foods “promoted feelings of being full, reduced hunger, and decreased energy intake regardless of how the food was changed to lower the energy density.”
On the CDC site, the brochure How to use fruits and vegetables to help manage your weight is available for those who might be interested. The brochure especially gives useful tips on
- How to combine foods of different energy density to get a tasty dish with acceptable amount of calories.
- Using low energy substitutes
- Preparing fruit and vegetables without increasing calories (e.g. no frying, whole fruit vs. juices)