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10th Anniversary of the Golden Carrot Award

golden-carrot-award-10th-anniversaryThe Physicians Committee’s Golden Carrot Award is celebrating its 10th Anniversary! Since 2004, the Golden Carrot Award has acknowledged schools and food service directors who work to create programs that encourage students to eat more fresh fruits, vegetables, and plant-based meals for improved health and disease prevention. Every year, school food service directors submit applications detailing their menus, and Physicians Committee doctors and dietitians declare the winners based on which schools provide the best nutrition environments for students.

I’m excited to announce the 2014 Golden Carrot Award winners:
MUSE School CA, based in Calabasas, Calif.
Desert Garden Montessori School in Phoenix, Ariz.
Lincoln Public School District in Lincoln, Neb.

Over the past decade, the Golden Carrot Award has celebrated dozens of delicious plant-based lunches, Meatless Mondays, school gardens, and an all-vegetarian cafeteria! The Golden Carrot Award predates Let’s Move, the Smart Snacks in Schools program, and even the school soda bans.

While we are excited to see many school menus improve, we need to continue look beyond soda and potato chips to the main culprits of childhood obesity: meat and dairy. Cheese is the top source of saturated fat in the American diet, and a cup of nonfat milk has more sugar than a serving of Frosted Flakes. Milk is also linked to both prostate and ovarian cancers. When it comes to red and processed meat, just one serving per day increases the risk of death from cancer and heart disease. With these risks, it’s hard to believe that some schools still serve pepperoni pizza and ham sandwiches.

But by moving plant-based fare to the center of the tray, we can conquer these statistics by helping students crave delicious disease-fighting foods. Children love fruits and vegetables, when you give them the chance. Carrot coins, filled with nutritious beta-carotene, went as fast as Halloween candy at a recent nutrition lecture with more than 100 students in Montgomery County Public Schools.

After 10 years, what we know for sure is teaching students about preventive nutrition is a community effort. I encourage parents, doctors, and teachers to continue to team up to shape the future health of our next generation.

Fortunately, our Golden Carrot Award winners are leading the way. I’m looking forward to the next 10 years of award applicants and seeing firsthand how more and more schools are shifting toward nutritious, plant-based fare!

Students at Desert Garden Montessori eating lunch.

Students at Desert Garden Montessori eating lunch.

For information and resources, please visit www.HealthySchoolLunches.org .

Save Breakfast from the Dairy Industry

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Breakfast is in trouble. From McDonald’s Egg McMuffin to Taco Bell’s Waffle Taco, breakfast trends continue to veer into unhealthy territory and skyrocket in fat and cholesterol. And now, even one of the most healthful breakfast options – oatmeal – is at risk. Starting in October, the Quaker Oats man will be sporting a milk mustache.

MilkPEP, the milk promotion program sponsored by the dairy industry, has splashed its marketing campaign across the iconic Quaker Oats logo. Marketing milk is a disservice to Quaker’s customers who may not know that milk has zero health benefits. In fact, milk is associated with many health risks. In the American diet, dairy products are some of the top sources of saturated fat and cholesterol – major contributors to heart disease, America’s No. 1 killer. More than one glass of milk per day can increase the risk of breast cancer by 73 percent, and two and a half servings of dairy products can raise prostate cancer risk by 34 percent. Skim milk is not a better option – it still holds many of the dangers as whole milk, including cholesterol and sugar.  Just one cup of skim milk has more sugar than a serving of Lucky Charms!

Additionally, 65 percent of people are lactose intolerant and experience abdominal pain, gas, diarrhea, and other symptoms of gastrointestinal upset roughly 30 minutes after drinking milk. Certain populations are more likely to be lactose intolerant than others.  Data show that approximately 90 percent of Asians, 75 percent of African-Americans, more than 50 percent of Hispanics, and 79 percent of Native Americans are lactose intolerant.

Fortunately, oatmeal can be easily prepared with water or nondairy milk to create a healthful breakfast. Half a cup of Quaker old-fashioned oats has 5 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, which will help you feel full until lunchtime. Oatmeal also helps lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.  Adding heart-healthy and cholesterol-free options – like fruit or plant-based milks – will help you reap the benefits of oatmeal, rather than wash them away.

By wiping off his milk mustache—or making it a plant-milk mustache—the Quaker mascot has the opportunity to help save breakfast. Customers who want to let Quaker know that they love their oats dairy free can sign this petition. Let’s all work together to keep breakfast healthful for everyone!

Orange Is the New Pink

This is a guest blog from Physicians Committee director of nutrition education Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D.

Orange is the New Pink

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, both individuals and businesses don pink ribbons in the fight against breast cancer. But while pink has become synonymous with breast cancer, orange is the color that can actually help prevent this disease.  Women who consume the most orange vegetables, which are rich in carotenoids, lower their risk of breast cancer by 19 percent.

One type of carotenoid is beta-carotene, which many people associate with carrots. The Institute of Medicine recommends women consume a daily serving of 3 to 6 milligrams of beta-carotene to reduce the risk of disease. Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene, but there are so many other foods that are packed with this immunity-boosting nutrient. One cup of butternut squash has up to three times the suggested minimum amount!

Orange is the New Pink

As we head into autumn, many carotenoid-rich vegetables are in season. Fill your grocery cart with orange foods and stop by the farmers market for some pumpkin, squash, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. Spread the word by sharing the graphic—and make sure that even if you’re wearing pink, you’re still eating orange!

Click here to take the Orange Pledge!

For more information: www.OrangeIsTheNewPink.org

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