“What a shame,” laments registered dietitian Novick. “Never before was it so vital that we dramatically change what children eat. We don’t have a few overweight kids in America. We have a national health crisis.”
Among U.S. teenagers, obesity-related (type 2) diabetes has increased 800% during the past decade. And nearly 70% of teens in America show the initial stages of fatty streaks, or early heart disease, in their arteries.
“Our youth need more fruits and vegetables, at least 9 servings daily. They don’t need guidelines that allow more Captain Crunch,” asserts Novick.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM), comprised of scientists nationwide, provides advice on health issues to U.S. policymakers. The good news about its newly proposed school standards, crafted by a 15-member panel and requested by Congress, is that they are healthier than current government rules for food sold in vending machines and stores on school campuses. The new guidelines promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nonfat or low-fat dairy products. They also propose limits on calories, saturated fat, sugar, and salt.
“But those limits still allow way too much junk,” argues Jeffrey Novick, who has counseled hundreds of children and teenagers in healthy nutrition over the past five years in summer programs at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
The IOM’s guidelines, for example, allow up to 10% of calories from artery-clogging saturated fat. “The goal should be at least less than 7%, like the American Heart Association’s guidelines, and even as low as 5%, like Pritikin Program recommendations, because U.S. children as young as 8 and 9 are already showing signs of heart disease,” points out Novick.
Also too high are sugar guidelines (up to 35% of calories per serving), sodium guidelines (entrees can have up to 480mg of sodium), and trans fat guidelines (less than a half-gram per serving.)
“Trans fat are so artery-damaging that the only healthy guideline is zero trans fat,” states Novick.”The fact is, plenty of kids might eat multiple servings of “ow in trans fat” chips or cookies, which means that by day’s end their arteries will have accumulated, not a little, but a lot of plaque-building trans fats.”
To his sad surprise, dietitian Jeffrey Novick found that many highly processed junk foods, including Captain Crunch and Frito Lay’s Baked Crisps, meet the new Institute of Medicine guidelines. “How can a food like Captain Crunch, full of ingredients like refined flour, sugar, and saturated fat from coconut oil, ever be considered a health food? Well, it can under these new guidelines.”
Another key problem with the IOM report is that there is no specific recommendation for fiber intake.
“The most important thing both children and adults in America can do for their health and waistlines is increase their consumption of unprocessed and unrefined fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Experts nationwide recommend 35 to 50 grams of fiber daily for adults. But the IOM report sets no guidelines for the amount of fiber that foods should contain. So foods that are essentially fiberless, like Captain Crunch, can slip in as “healthy,” says Novick.
“We have a national health crisis among our children, and, regrettably, it will remain a crisis with guidelines like these.”