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Nutrition Articles  ›  Healthy Habits

Fight for Your Food Rights

Going Head to Head with the Food and Beverage Industries

-- By Mike Kramer, Staff Writer
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A good place to start looking at is in school. Many of us would be shocked to learn just how sugar-packed and calorie-laden school food really is. Menu choices are often very limited and surprisingly unhealthy. Faced with these choices every day, it’s no wonder more than 15% of teenagers are overweight. They can’t win this fight on their own. You have to help your schools make choices for them. Talk to your school boards and principals. Ask that soda machines be removed and that menus follow USDA nutritional guidelines.

Says Dr. Brownell, "School systems all around the country are taking on this issue, first by getting rid of soft drinks in vending machines. This movement is growing and will probably be joined soon by more organized efforts to get rid of unhealthy snack foods, improve school lunches, and increase physical activity."

At home, it’s important to think critically about what you’re eating. People make mistakes all the time, thinking that they’re eating healthy when they’re really not. Mainly, it’s because they’re not paying quite enough attention. For example, Dr. Brownell cites parents giving their kids "sugared drinks with fruit in the name or sports drinks, thinking kids are getting something healthy," is a common mistake, along with "eating whatever is in a bag, box, or bottle, thinking they are having just one serving," when it could easily be 2, 3, or more.

It’s never too late to start. In fact, today you can take a few simple steps to make your kitchen healthier. Dr. Brownell suggests starting by immediately throwing out "soft drinks, sugared cereals, high calorie snacks, and almost any product with a cartoon character or celebrity attached."

The food and beverage industry is a formidable foe. While the "5 A Day" vegetable and fruit program gets $2 million to promote its message, the Altoids mints brand alone is free to spend $10 million. With so much money and so many resources behind them, it’s easy to see how this could affect your food choices.

Even so, it’s your job to make sure the right choices are still made. With enough information and a vigilant stance, you can do it.
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About The Author

Mike Kramer Mike Kramer
As a writer and artist, Mike has witnessed countless motivational stories and techniques. See all of Mike's articles.

Member Comments

  • reply to comment by CRONKSTAIRS: As far as school kids taking a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, most children can't do this as it is FORBIDDEN due to the large % of children with peanut allergies.
    I agree with most people that we can't blame the food industry, advertising etc for our obesity although in the case of restaurant portions, they have increased so gradually that many people have not realized how large they've become until it was pointed out strongly. In some cases it was beyond the point where they already had the obesity problem. - 3/31/2014 4:10:05 AM
  • I think some people are forgetting money issues. We qualified for free lunch at school, it was better for my mom and us for my sister and I to eat at school than to pack lunch, it allowed her to buy us more food for dinner and clothing. Not everyone has the luxury of a disposable income. - 1/25/2014 11:36:00 AM
  • For those who think parents are slackers about packing lunches-try reading the requirements that some school systems put on them. No, you can't pack them milk because there's no way to keep it cold. And you don't know how hormone-ridden the school's milk is since the brand changes regularly. A peanut butter sandwich might be cheap, but it's not allowed in a public school. If a teacher thinks that kid isn't getting enough food, they can take it away and make him get a school lunch.

    So get off your high horse, folks. The point the article is making is that kids' food habits form young. If school is teaching them to eat pizza every Friday, cheeseburgers every Tuesday, and to get a cookie with every meal then that's what they are learning. It's a lifetime process to unlearn these things, though it can be done. As all of us can attest. No one is saying that this is gets you off the hook for making your own choices. It's telling you to beware what schools and restaurants are teaching you and your kids so you can counteract it. - 1/17/2014 9:31:28 AM
  • Keep in mind that many schools actually do not ALLOW parents to pack their chldren's lunches - why? Food allergies. Peanut butter sandwiches are pretty much OUT in the district where I live because there's too much of a chance that some kid with an allergy will get a hold of it and then, boom, hospital trip. (You know how kids are - they often trade food items at lunch, or at least I did!)

    You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. - 12/8/2013 1:19:54 PM
  • Yes, I know that individuals are ultimately responsible for their behavior. However, I am quite intelligent. I’m very persistent and I’m fortunate to have many resources available to me. Many others are not as lucky.

    Yet, even I am often surprised by the ingredients in my groceries when I finally have time to read them. I’m annoyed at the labels designed to confuse and hide the facts. I resent the fact that I have to continue to carefully monitor labels on items that once were fine and suddenly have changed their ingredients without any warning.

    So my wish is that corporations with time, money and resources would HELP us follow a healthy lifestyle and not scatter roadblocks and detours in our path. Perhaps that is too much to ask when profit is the ultimate motive.
    - 12/8/2013 9:51:45 AM
  • don't like the blame game. If you don't like it don't eat there. Schools should be better but there is always the opp to take your lunch too - 12/5/2013 6:31:34 AM
  • METAMORPH2010
    Boy, look at all the self-righteous comments below! Yes, ultimately we as individuals are responsible for what we put into our mouths, but let's not discount the power of carefully researched and thought out marketing influences. We are human and prone to human weaknesses, and the food industry has done considerable research to capitalize on those weaknesses. I know that I do much better with my weight loss when I do not beat myself up -- and part of that is recognizing that my ways of coping are borne out of the influences I had growing up. These habits are hard to break, which is a big part of why so many of us are obese -- not because we're unmotivated, lazy, undisciplined slobs, which is what is suggested when articles such as this one are dissed. I only wish this article were better written and included references to some of the studies done. - 11/1/2013 1:20:38 AM
  • CRONKSTAIRS
    It's unbelievable to see what parents pack in their children's lunches these days. Too many choices, lots of packaged snacks, sugary drinks, and packaged lunches in plastic containers containing processed, junky cheese, crackers, and meat. Some people blame the cost of healthy food for that, but I think it's a matter of just doing what's convenient. Why aren't these children buying milk at school? And a peanut butter sandwich does not cost all that much. - 8/17/2013 6:59:55 AM
  • We have free will. No one says you have to eat the bigger portion. Besides that, parents should be feeding their children at home, as well as eating there themselves. - 12/19/2012 8:18:09 PM
  • SBOUDREAU25
    I have a lot of problems with blaming the food industry for obesity. The choice lies with the individual. I do agree that school lunch is often a choice of "bad" or "worse". That is unacceptable. - 10/26/2012 7:54:14 PM
  • I too disagree with this article....it is my fault that I am obese...not any government agency, not any fast food business, not anyone else but me. I made my choices...albeit poor choices, as I am now making a choice to do something about it. We need to stop blaming our choices and behaviors on someone else! Sadly, it looks like the last generation that really believed in personal accountability was the generation before mine. Lets try to set an example instead of placing blame... - 6/9/2012 9:36:01 PM
  • I disagree with much of this article. For the most part, personal decisions is to blame for obesity, not the availability of the variety of food we are blessed to have in this nation. - 6/9/2012 9:52:48 AM
  • I do not believe in finger pointing. You are responsible for what you and your children put in your bodies. - 6/3/2012 10:48:33 AM
  • GRAVITYFIGHTING
    Ultimately the person responsible for what I eat is me - I read labels, research food, check out restaurant web sites to look before I "Leap". Blaming someone else is always an easy way out and one we as a society do to much of. Until we take responsibility for our own actions nothing will change in ourselves and our bodies - regardless of what others do! - 3/15/2012 7:56:56 AM
  • I don't think I agree. Ultimately the only one responsible for what I shovel into my mouth is me!!! I am not going to place the blame anywhere except with me!!! - 6/22/2011 9:19:14 AM