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November 25th, 2011 - By Lari Robling

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Registered Dietician and consultant Lauren Swann shares noteworthy nutrition studies. While we are making strides in school cafeterias, there’s work to be done at fast food outlets. Plus, an upside to the downside of the economy.


What have nutrition professionals been looking at recently, and what can we learn from them? Lauren Swann is a Registered Dietician and consultant to industry and public health organizations. In the dozens of daily briefings she sees, there is good news in school cafeterias. “Schools are successfully partnering with gardens and local farms and involving kids in the process. They’ll do before and after studies on plate waste, student acceptance, everything to make sure that if we’re putting together these healthful meals the kids are eating them. They’re not leaving it on the plate.”

In another study, Swann says there’s some disconnect between intention and actual behavior. “Some of the quick service restaurants in the kids meals are now offering a side of fruit, instead of soda and French fries.” So, kids are eating better at fast food outlets, “some of them are, some of the mother’s actually are preferring the fries over the fruit in the child’s meal,” Swann continues. The conclusion, “we don’t know yet. That was a very interesting one, or we don’t know if the parents assume that the child would feel more filled with the fries versus the fruit. So we need to keep tracking that one and see what’s going on.”

Fast food chains may not be nutritionally perfect but they are inexpensive. “We have studies going back and forth about whether or not we can really eat healthfully in today’s very budget conscious times. From the studies that I’ve read, which reinforce what I’ve learned, it can be done. You do kind of stay on the straight and narrow there, but you can buy your fruits and vegetables on sale and we shouldn’t be eating as much meat and dairy as we have over the years anyway. So, it’s a good time to look at controlling your meat and dairy.” These studies suggest that to keep to a budget plan ahead, skip prepared foods and cook from scratch. “Younger parents today, I’d say parents just starting out with a family are rediscovering the joys of having all the kids in the kitchen fixing a meal together, sitting down and eating together. In fact, I saw some polls recently about the one thing people is not eating out as often. The comments that come along with it are, the kids are eating healthier, and we’re having more family time preparing the meals, and even sometimes they even want to help with shopping. So it’s turning out to be an overall win-win situation.”

Which is all food for thought! Lauren Swann is a Registered Dietician.

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