This Week's Nutrition News Feed

By: Sara Reistad-Long

In this week's news: Michelle Obama hits a spork in the road to school lunch reform; researchers give a quick lesson on food costs and weight gain; and a former restaurant critic says it's time to give up on the miracle diet pills already.

First (Lunch) Lady

Segments of the food industry and Republican legislators have criticized the 2010 federal dietary school lunch standards (called the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act), citing lack of flexibility and questioning their cost and effectiveness. The School Nutrition Association, a group representing cafeteria administrators, say enrollment has gone down after the standards -- which limit sodium, fat and calories, and require that fruits, vegetables and whole grains replace unhealthy menu choices. Adding bite to that bark is a new measure that would allow poorer school districts to opt out of the program. This week, Michelle Obama has been speaking out strongly against this move, penning a New York Times Op Ed that cites some tough numbers: One in three children is overweight of obese, one in three children is expected to develop diabetes, and currently $190 billion a year is spent treating obesity-related conditions. These lunch regulations can help, says Sam Kass, White House chef and the director of Mrs. Obama's "Let’s Move" campaign, who cites academic studies showing that all children were eating healthier after the standards were established.

Food Prices Are Right, But Our Weight Isn't

We like to blame rising obesity rates on things like cost and being so incredibly busy, but a new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana and the RAND corporation has found that, in actuality, we're exercising more, have more leisure time and even have more access to fresh and affordable food than we did in decades past. Moreover, while disparities exist among economic, educational, and ethnic groups, most have seen their obesity levels rise at similar rates. In other words, we all appear to be getting fatter at the same pace. What gives? When the researchers dug deeper, they learned this: The percent of disposable income we spent on food dropped from 1970 to 2010. But not because we’re cutting back. The price of food has also decreased, and while cost of fruits and vegetables has actually gone down by 20 percent since the 1970s, the cost of junk food is still even less and also getting lower. What this tells them is that our problem might not be too little access to good food -- but too much access to all food. Definitely something to chew on.

Dietary Hope in a Jar

Ever heard of Garcinia Cambogia? According to one commercial label, pills containing extracts of this exotic fruit can block fat absorption, suppress appetite and regulate emotional eating. But dig a little deeper and it turns out all these claims are shaky at best. In his most recent Op Ed column, Frank Bruni of the New York Times (once the paper's restaurant critic) uses his own overstocked supplement cabinet (which just might harbor a half-full bottle of Garcina Cambogia) as  a call to action for cracking down -- as consumers -- on the fad pills and plans that promise big, and deliver, well, very little. Specifically, Bruni points to Dr. Oz, whose enormously popular show and website endorse products with words like "magic," "miracle" and “revolutionary.” This kind of language, Bruni argues, is pushing the envelope on our quick-fix habit and needs to be curtailed.

Sara Reistad-Long writes about science, wellness and lifestyle. She is the co-author of The Big New York Sandwich Book and can be followed on Twitter: @sarareistadlong

Keep Reading

Next Up

This Week's Nutrition News Feed

In this week's news: Having an off-again-on-again relationship with bread; debating the meaning of "natural" food; and naming as many Dr. Oz diet catchphrases as possible (it's a "miracle!").

This Week’s Nutrition News Feed

In this week’s news: reasons to eat more nuts, soda sales are on the decline, and how much more does healthful eating cost? (hint: not much!)

This Week's Nutrition News Feed

Nutrition news this week about pizza, diabetes and salt.

This Week's Nutrition News Feed

In this week's news: Imagining the coffee-pod version of Soylent; sizing up gummy bears as body-builder food; and creating a non-profit supermarket in a low-income suburb.

This Week's Nutrition News Feed

Our Nutrition News Feed covers all the latest nutrition information. This week: carbs are good for you, it's not expensive to eat healthy foods, and an imaginary meal to help you lose weight.

This Week's Nutrition News Feed

In this week's news: Cravings could be a gut thing (if not a good thing); the outdated BMI system gets a checkup; and the "all-natural" label is, well, kinda fake.

This Week's Nutrition News Feed

Health Headlines about Red Wine, Antibiotics, and Milk. More healthy tips like these at Food Network.

This Week's Nutrition News Feed

In this week's news: Mondays are the new January 1; "sad desk lunch" is no way to live; and salt gets a sprinkling of controversy.

This Week's Nutrition News Feed

In this week's news: Restaurant chains reduce sodium levels on the sly; the buzz on edible insects keeps growing; and doctors confess to being clueless when it comes to nutrition.

This Week's Nutrition News Feed

In this week's news: The next green juice, texting for weight loss and restless nights for coffee lovers.

Food Network Apps

In the Kitchen

Get over 70,000 FN recipes on all your mobile devices.

Facebook Messenger

Ask our bot for recipes, meal ideas and daily food trivia.

Amazon Echo

Just say "Alexa, enable Food Network skill" to get started.