America, “land of the free,” “stupid” and “obese” according to the rest of the world. And in freshman year health class with Coach Lilly, sitting in the front row watching Super Size Me, and going to Five-Guys for a burger and shake afterward, I realized…the rest of the world wasn’t so wrong.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock ate McDonald’s every day for an entire month to examine America’s growing obesity epidemic. The most shocking thing is this documentary came out in 2004. We weren’t aware of how a high-fat, high-carb diet could negatively affect our health, and still believed it was mostly based on caloric value, in 2004.
Super Size Me shocked the nation, and maybe even the world, and helped spur action against the adverse health effects of the fast food industry specifically. Sadly, obesity and childhood obesity rates continued to climb. To help combat the ever growing childhood obesity rates, the Obama administration established the Healthy Kids Act on December 13, 2010. The federal guidelines for school lunches are based on age groups, calories, sodium levels, trans fat and then the food groups.
There are major, major problems with calorie counting and the “eating the rainbow” guidelines. First, schools are restricted to serving a blanket maximum of 850 calories per meal. Comparing a tiny freshman girl to a bulked senior football player for nutritional needs is insane. The girl will be sick to her stomach and the guy will starve.
As for “eating the rainbow?” It’s an okay starting point for nutrition, because it’s a simple practice that helps kids eat their major food groups by eating “one food of the rainbow.” Except we should be promoting macronutrients, macros are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. According to most nutritionists, 45-60% of your calories should be carbs, 10-35% protein and 20-35% fats.
Now, depending on your lifestyle or fitness goals, those numbers can be adjusted, which is fine. However, notice how protein and carbs aren’t mentioned in the federal guidelines at all? Our guidelines were based on age, calories, food groups and sodium. Plus, the only mention of fat is trans fat, although unhealthy and should be limited, fat is a necessary part of our diet and good fats do exist.
Not teaching kids proper nutrition allows them to be more likely to reach for those salty or sugary snacks. By not offering kids enough food at school, they go home and gorge themselves on all the unhealthy junk food at home.
The intention behind the Healthy Kids Act was good and pure-hearted as it was to promote healthy eating and exercise, but it’s just not cutting it anymore. We know more about nutrition and need to implement that new knowledge, even if it was just requiring a semester of health/nutrition.
Our country is immensely diverse and it would be extremely difficult and tedious to implement and policy that caters to every single type of student. However, by adding requirements about macronutrients and tweaking the requirements for calories kids will be on their way to feeling more full and healthy.