Blog Posts for: Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
01/20/2010 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
The Party That Doesn’t Stop
I frequently get asked about my view on classroom parties. Last week, I wrote a very long e-mail to someone in response to this question, so I thought I would post what I wrote so I can share these views with all of you.
11/18/2009 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Clarifying the Chocolate Milk Controversy
For the record - I never set out to attack chocolate milk. I am a mother, a health professional, and a fan of dairy products. I serve milk, yogurt, cheese, and even the occasional ice cream cone to my own three children. My efforts to improve the nutrition environment in schools have focused primarily on foods that offer little nutritional value and add extra calories and sugar to children’s diets.
07/29/2009 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
CDC Weight of the Nation Update
I am on the train right now coming back from the CDC's Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, D.C. It was a very interesting conference, as it brought together researchers and public health experts to discuss how to make policy changes to reduce childhood obesity.
04/30/2009 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Good Foods, Bad Foods, and Non-Foods
I have previously expressed my frustration with the "there are no good or bad foods" mantra. This issue came up again when I was on a television panel recently that included someone from the Connecticut Restaurant Association (who was there to argue against legislation to mandate calorie label on menus) and a well known therapist who treats eating disorders.
04/21/2009 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Branding a Human
Recently, I was struck by an article in the New York Times entitled “Putting Yourself Out There on a Shelf to Buy.” Alina Tugend, the author of the piece, discusses the idea of selling yourself as a brand (via building an online public image for promoting yourself) in order to acquire and retain employment. Reluctant at first to the idea of self-promotion via branding, Tugend concludes, “The reality is, many of us may not have the option of staying in a company, unbranded. We have to create our own job security, and branding is part of that.”
02/17/2009 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
The Best Mountain Dew Can Do Is Be the Unhealthy Part of an Otherwise Healthy, Balanced Diet.
I have written about this issue before, but it astonishes me how reliably the soft drink industry, such as Pepsi most recently, relies on the argument that their products "consumed in moderation, can be part of a healthy, balanced diet."
11/10/2008 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Low Sugar Product Advice for the Beverage Industry
I was interested to see an article in The New York Times on Pepsi's declining profits. It seems that messages to drink tap water instead of bottled water or soda are getting through to people. The reason this message may be so powerful is that it is based on both health (in terms of drinking fewer caloric beverages) and concern for the environment (and the impact of millions of plastic bottles). When you add hard economic times to the mix, the decision to drink tap water instead of buying Pepsi clearly makes a lot of sense to a lot of people.
03/18/2008 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Skittles: Taste the Media Frenzy
My heart sank when I saw the front cover of my local newspaper. The front page story of the New Haven Register was all about.... Skittles. In the last few days the sale of one package of Skittles in a New Haven middle school has gotten more national press coverage than 5 years of hard work by New Haven health professionals, administrators, and parents to improve the school environment in their city.
11/15/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
How Healthier Living Could Save the World
There was an article in the Hartford Courant the other day entitled "Save the Planet by Cutting Calories." The main point of this article is that behavioral changes such as walking to school instead of driving, or eating less red meat, can simultaneously help people become healthier while also addressing climate change.
10/18/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Find your neighborhood's "walk score"
I was just looking at the most recent newsletter from Active Living Research, and they reported on an online tool where you can type in an address and get the "walk score" of the neighborhood.
10/12/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Not So Easy to Just Say No
The Kaiser Family Foundation released a report recently on the amount of food advertising that children are exposed to each year. One of the interesting trends is that 20% of ads direct children to go to the company’s website. I have been amazed in my own house at how much my children know about different websites, and how easily they get drawn into them.
09/07/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Cupcakes are gone – get over it.
There seems to be a new back-to-school ritual – newspaper stories on how the school cafeteria looks different this year because districts are continuing to try to improve the school food environment. One feature of most of these articles is a comment on how upset students and parents are about specific changes. For example, this article states that parents are upset about losing cupcakes
07/14/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Cut Portion Sizes, Make Profi
Last weekend, The New York Times business section ran an article about the single serving size packages of popular snacks (“Fewer Bites. Fewer Calories. Lot More Profit”). The article points out that when you buy these 100 calorie packs, you are paying more per ounce than you would if you bought the larger package. One person even suggested that you could just divide up the larger package into smaller servings at home with a box of snack baggies and save money.
07/10/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Our Meeting on Food Addiction
Today we held a meeting at the Rudd Center on Food and Addiction, which was covered in USA Today. One of the important points made in the article is that is likely that not all people who struggle with their weight are "addicted." Psychiatrist Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and a speaker at the meeting, says the research in this area is complicated, but most people's weight problems aren't caused by food addiction.
06/03/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
In Search of a Parent-Friendly Kid's Meal
I was absolutely thrilled to read David Kamp's article "Don't point that menu at my child, please" in the New York Times. He did an excellent job articulating a frustration that I've had for years over children's menus and the ubiquitous chicken finger. Because I have had concerns about the poor nutritional value of restaurant children's meals for years, my children are used to the rule that they can have either fries or dessert - but not both. My children almost always choose the dessert (usually ice cream) and skip the fries. Depending on the restaurant, we can often substitute a vegetable or fruit salad instead of the fries, and in general they do not charge extra for this. Early on when I would ask the waitress to bring the meal without the fries, about 50% of the time she'd forget and then I'd be in the awkward position of having to either let it go, or ask her to take it back and remove the fries. But, I've been at this now for about 7 years and I definitely feel that today it is much easier to make these requests, servers are more used to hearing them, and the majority of the time, they get it right. I've also noticed a lot of restaurants now offer the fries as one of several sides, so they aren't automatically the default side dish.
05/28/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Thank You, TGI Friday's
I was in the Philadelphia airport the other day with some colleagues and we needed to grab lunch between flights. We decided to go to TGI Friday's and try out their new "right portion, right price" menu options.
05/10/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
It's so NOT the real thing...
Last night I saw a commercial for a new product called Diet Coke Plus. I'd somehow missed the news that this was coming, so it took me quite by surprise to see that Coke is now fortifying its product with vitamins and minerals. I was so surprised, in fact, that I blurted out, "You have got to be kidding," and my children turned to me and asked what was wrong.
Why did I have such a big reaction? Let me try to explain.
04/30/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
The Next American Idol
OK - I admit it. I have been watching American Idol with my kids this season. I had never seen it before, but the girls started watching it elsewhere and convinced me to watch with them a few weeks ago. Now I am hooked. So, what does American Idol have to do with food policy, obesity or weight bias?
04/14/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
War over snacktime
I was surprised to see an article about a school district in Pennsylvania where parents are angry over a kindergarten snack ban because one child in the class has a severe food allergy. This quote really struck me: "Children who have no disabilities have been forced to live within the confines of a child with a disability," parent Jennifer Bowers, of Forward, told the Butler Eagle.
03/09/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Healthy Choices and the Need for Menu Labeling
The other day I went to Panera's with my oldest daughter, Anna, to get lunch. I figured that it was probably a healthier restaurant than the Friendly's next door, the TGIF's at the other end of the shopping center, and certainly better than the McDonald's across the street. After all, Panera's has things like soups, salads, and sandwiches - those are usually pretty healthy, right?
02/16/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
BMI Report Cards: My Opinion in a Sound Bite
The issue of schools measuring and reporting students’ BMI has been getting a lot of attention, and I’ve been asked several times if I think if “BMI report cards” are good or bad. My answer is that I have very mixed feelings about them. Mixed feelings are hard to express in a sound bite, but let me try to succinctly explain my two-part view of this strategy to address childhood obesity.
01/23/2007 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
The Truth about Picky Eaters
A New York Times article has some news I was thrilled to read: Children are actually getting used to - and even starting to prefer - the healthier foods in school cafeterias. Apparently, from 1998 to 2006, French fries have been getting less popular, and carrots and fresh vegetables have been getting more popular. Food service directors are reporting that although children may have refused the healthier foods at first (such as pizza with whole wheat crust), after a while their preferences change and they enjoy the new foods.
12/11/2006 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Moderation is difficult to define, as I discussed in my previous blog entry. One suggestion for clarifying the meaning of moderation is to publicize the idea of "discretionary calories" that actually exists on the government's diet website. The problem is tracking down the useful information - it is not on the materials for consumers, which use the words "occasionally" and "sparingly" to describe how often you should eat sweets and high fat foods. But, you can find it buried a few layers down if you go to: "Inside the Pyramid," then "Oils and Discretionary Calories," and then "How Many Discretionary Calories Can I Have?"
11/26/2006 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
"Sometimes" is a dangerous word
In a recent study on "occassional indulgences," researchers found that despite the fact that two thirds of Americans are overweight and nearly one third are obese, 4 out of 5 Americans characterize their eating as "very healthy" or "somewhat healthy." In an effort to understand this disconnect, the researchers concluded that the problem is that "'sometimes' is a very dangerous word. Basically, Americans can honestly say to themselves that they only eat fast food sometimes, they only snack on junk food sometimes, they only get the super-sized portions sometimes, and it all adds up to a lot of excess calories.
10/29/2006 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Trick or toy
It's that time of year again - when the aisles of every grocery store, drug store, and Wal-Mart are overflowing with bags and bags of candy for Halloween. And, every year I scout out Halloween themed toys, stickers, mini flashlights, pencils, and yo-yo's to hand out instead of candy. I started doing this a few years ago when I was studying the question of whether or not children really are disappointed when unhealthy foods are removed from holiday celebrations. We did a study where we offered trick-or-treaters a choice between a toy and a piece of candy and found that children were just as likely to choose the toy as the candy. After the year of the study, I began only handing out toys and I have yet to have any eggs thrown at my house. I buy a bunch of colorful, fun toys and the children are always excited to choose among them.
10/01/2006 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Why not come up with a really original recipe?
The New York Times reports that many companies, including KFC, are “tailoring their messages to mothers who, they are certain, are dying to spend more time on themselves, but feel too guilty to do so.” KFC’s newest ads artfully ease the time-challenged mom’s guilt about serving her family fatty fast food. The ads present the product as a wholesome family meal, served by Mom herself on real plates to a grateful nuclear family gathered around the table. You almost forget that the F in KFC stands for fried.
09/23/2006 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Growing vegetable lovers
Some people say that children cannot be persuaded to enjoy fruits and vegetables. But this belief is being challenged at Veggie U., where kids are involved in farming, from composting to harvest. They get taste of truly fresh food and work with chefs to turn garden bounty into delicious meals. Veggie U. reports that its graduates develop a long-term taste for fruits and vegetables. The cost of the curriculum for a class is $400, about the same as a month's worth of some cholesterol-lowering medications. The lesson of Veggie U. is simple: Kids are much more likely to choose healthy foods if we adults put some effort into encouraging that choice.
08/28/2006 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Creating a cafeteria, not a food court
This week I had the opportunity to visit Promise Academy in Harlem and meet the Director of Food Service and Executive Chef, Andrew Benson. We stood in his sparkling clean kitchen while he talked about the challenges of serving healthy food to children in his middle school. He shared that there were children in 7th grade that had never seen a piece of broccoli before, so introducing new foods took time and patience, but eventually the children accepted and enjoyed them.
08/09/2006 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
A naturally hot pink vegetable
With all of the emphasis on nutrition education and providing choices, we often forget one simple fact: we eat what is in front of us. At the Rudd Center, in the spirit of practicing what we preach, we joined the CitySeed CSA (community supported agriculture) and had our first delivery to the office last week. In my bag, there were several ears of corn on the cob, different types of squash, a clove of garlic, an array of peaches and plums, and a great big bunch of ... swiss chard.
07/29/2006 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
Dora the Explorer Sells Clementines
Several years ago, when my oldest daughter was only 4 years old, we were walking in the grocery store and she spotted a box featuring the Disney Princesses. She grabbed it off the shelf and told me she wanted to buy it, so I turned around and asked her what kind of food was in the box. She looked up at me and said "I don't know."
07/18/2006 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
School Wellness Policies
This fall, there is a new federal law requiring all schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to have a School Wellness Policy. The policy must address several components: nutrition education, nutrition standards for foods sold, physical activity, and measurement and evaluation of the policy. While the law says you must "address" each of these areas, it does not say specifically what you should do in each area.
05/25/2006 | Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD
At the end of a remarkable two year battle between public health advocates and soft drink lobbyists, the legislature passed a bill on April 27th to ban soft drinks and sports drinks from all public schools.