FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Marlene Schwartz Discusses “One Dessert a Day”
In the February issue of Real Simple magazine, I was quoted in an article about smart eating strategies. My advice was placed under the headline: “Always eat dessert.” The same day the magazine started circulating, a parent in my town called and asked me to explain my quote. She knew I was a strong advocate of getting unhealthy snacks out of schools. This advice seemed like a contradiction, she said. The following day, a parent in another state wrote me that people were using my quote to advocate for cupcakes at school birthday celebrations. I immediately wrote back and told her that this was not the advice I was giving.
Clearly, a more detailed explanation was needed. Here is my logic.
I am the nutrition gatekeeper for my children. I teach them how to use their daily discretionary calories. Children between the ages of 2 and 8 can consume about 170 calories per day for treats such as cookies, candy, ice cream, and chips. When our children were little, my husband and I instituted the “one dessert a day” rule. The good news is you get dessert every single day; the bad news is you only get one reasonably sized dessert. Reasonably sized means two small chocolate chip cookies or one ice cream sandwich.
The benefit of this rule is that my children can enjoy sweets and other treats on a regular basis. At the same time, they learn that these foods are a small part of a daily diet. The concrete nature of “one a day” is much more helpful than the vague “everything in moderation.”
Sometimes we will see a candy machine or ice cream store when we are out. If my children ask for a snack, I tell them that they may have it, but I first remind them that this will be their dessert of the day. Sometimes they say that’s OK. More often, they opt to skip the random treat and have dessert after dinner with the family.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must share that we’ve negotiated over what counts as dessert. When chocolate is added to other foods, the categories get blurry. The verdicts: Chocolate chip pancakes at breakfast are not a dessert, but a chocolate chip muffin is. Chocolate milk counts as half a dessert. So, if you choose to institute this rule, be prepared for some interesting discussions.
Something else to consider: Your children will attend birthday parties where huge pieces of cake will be offered. Or, they will dine at restaurants with their grandparents and order an ice cream sundae that contains 170 calories in whipped cream and hot fudge alone. But those occasions are exceptions. If such events happen every couple of months, they qualify as “rare” to me.
Just Published by the Rudd Center
Nutrition-related labeling is a method used to inform consumers and encourage product reformulation. While the Food and Drug Administration is authorized to regulate nutrition labeling, manufacturers still have flexibility when making claims. The food industry recently created a labeling scheme to draw attention to specific qualities of their products. Since the inception of these confusing schemes, the federal government is reassessing regulations to ensure labels provide accurate and non-misleading information to consumers.
The research community can play a role in developing the proposed regulations. Strategies include gauging scientific validity and consumer comprehension, revealing the misleading nature of claims while supporting stricter regulations, and bringing false, deceptive, and misleading labels to the government’s attention, according to a paper recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine by Jennifer L. Pomeranz, JD, MPH, Rudd Center Director of Legal Initiatives.
Non-supermarket food retailers can be a promising channel for increasing the availability of healthy foods in underserved communities, according to a paper recently published in Public Health Nutrition. The researchers analyzed retailer practices, attitudes, and beliefs about the supply of healthy foods before and after the introduction of new subsidies for healthy foods by the U.S. Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in October 2009. They examined retailer perceptions of supply networks, demand and profits for different foods, and barriers to stocking healthy foods.
The researchers followed up with retailers to assess their attitudes after the implementation of the new WIC packages. Retailers identified customer demand as the primary factor in stocking decisions. They reported observing a greater demand for certain healthy foods compared with unhealthy foods after the new WIC subsidies became available. Retailers other than supermarkets currently perceive little demand for healthy foods, but new WIC subsidies have the power to change these perceptions. Supply barriers could be overcome when policy changes generate new demand for healthy foods.
The paper was coauthored by the Rudd Center’s Tatiana Andreyeva, PhD; Ann E. Middleton, MPH; Joerg Luedicke, PhD (ABD); and Marlene B. Schwartz, PhD; and Harvard School of Public Health’s Michael W. Long, MPH.
Rudd Center Summer Internships
The Rudd Center is seeking candidates for several full-time summer internships. Visit the position descriptions to learn more about the open positions and apply.
- Communications Intern (Applications due Mar 25)
- Food Policy Projects Intern (Applications due Mar 25)
- WIC Evaluation Project Intern (Applications due Mar 15)
Upcoming Seminar Speakers
March 14, 12:30 pm
March 23, 12:30 pm
March 30, 12:30 pm
April 6, 12:30 pm
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Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center. The seminars are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. The full schedule for our Spring Seminar Series is available online and for download.
Rudd Center Spotlight: Stephen P. Teret, JD, MPH
Stephen P. Teret, JD, MPH, Professor of Health Policy and Management and Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Law and the Public’s Health, and Associate Dean for Faculty and Education of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, will discuss innovative legal strategies for food policy during the Rudd Center’s Spring Seminar Series on March 30.
Dr. Teret has been a full-time faculty member at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health for more than 30 years. His work focuses on research, teaching, and public service in the areas of injury prevention, vaccine policy, preparedness, obesity, and health law. He also holds joint faculty appointments at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine, and is a Professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Education.
Dr. Teret is an author and frequent lecturer. He has served as a consultant to the President of the United States, the U.S. Attorney General, Congress, federal agencies, and state legislatures. He has received multiple awards for his work, including awards from the American Public Health Association and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.
Georgia Bill Campaign on Childhood Obesity: Suitable or Stigmatizing?
A series of billboards in Georgia aimed at reducing childhood obesity may be stigmatizing and hurting children instead, according to a recent article by Rebecca M. Puhl, PhD, Rudd Center Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives. The billboards, launched by Georgia’s Children’s Health Alliance, show overweight and obese children next to stigmatizing captions.
The article is the latest in a series by Dr. Puhl on Medscape, a part of WebMD Health Professional Network (free online registration required).
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