This Week's Nutrition News Feed
In this week's news: Some Americans -- but not all -- are eating better; junk-food cravings may be all in our minds; and back-to-school may mean back-to-better-meals.
A 12-year study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health has determined that, although there's still room for improvement, many Americans have bettered their eating habits over the past decade, upping their consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. That's the good news. The bad? That positive trend was true only among those higher on the socioeconomic ladder and didn't hold for lower-income individuals, making them vulnerable to health conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. "Declining diet quality over time may actually widen the gap between the poor and the rich," study co-author Frank Hu told the Associated Press.
Pass the chia seeds? New research indicates you may be able to train your brain to prefer healthy foods over less-than-beneficial ones. Brain scan studies suggest that, with behavior-change education and healthier menu plans, we may actually have power over our junk-food addictions. "We don't start out in life loving french fries and hating, for example, whole-wheat pasta," said study senior author Susan B. Roberts, of Tufts University. "This conditioning happens over time in response to eating -- repeatedly! -- what is out there in the toxic food environment."
Parents may gripe about the quality of school lunches – the mystery meats, the curious sauces, the preponderance of brown foods – but guess what? A new study published in the journal Appetite has found that kids actually eat better during the school year than they do during summer vacation. On non-school days, elementary and high school students consumed as much as 30 percent more unhealthy foods -- including pizza, fries and sugar-laden drinks -- than they did on school days, the study found. The explanation may lie in school-based programs that encourage healthy snacks, like fruits and vegetables, the researchers suggest, noting that parents may rely on these programs – and consequently provide fewer such healthy snacks at home.